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Urban Research in Latin America - Discussion Paper Series - No. 4
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Discussion Paper Series - No. 4

Urban Research in Latin America

Towards a Research Agenda


Licia Valladares and Magda Prates Coelho

also available in French and in Spanish

The facts and opinions expressed in this series are those of the authors and do not engage the responsibility of UNESCO.


Table of contents






  • Chart 1. Bibliographical References by Themes - Brazil
  • Chart 2. Bibliographical References by Themes - Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru
  • Part 1. General References on Latin America
  • Part 2. Reviews of the Latin American Literature
  • Table 1. Basic Indicators for Latin America - GNDP, HDI and Population
  • Table 2. Population Growth and Urbanization - Latin America
  • Table 3. Institutional Framework - Latin America



Licia Valladares and Magda Prates Coelho (1)

This paper provides an inside view of Latin American urban research and is based on three review papers prepared by members of the GURI network (2): Rodriguez, Espinoza and Herzer (1995) who covered research in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay; Schteingart et al (1995) who surveyed Mexico, Colombia and Central America; and Valladares and Coelho (1995) who dealt with Brazil and Venezuela.

In each of these regions a project leader worked with a group of researchers from several countries. Background documents were produced to provide an overview of existing literature. Workshops organized in Mexico City, Santiago and Rio de Janeiro brought together over 150 scholars who discussed and designed the agenda for future urban research in Latin America.

Focussing on different subregions (as defined for the purposes of the international project) the three papers have similar structures, with chapters on: a) trends in the urbanization process; b) issues covered by urban research in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s; c) the institutional context of urban research; d) a research agenda for the 1990s. They also include extensive bibliographies which have been taken into account in this document.

Although authors gave different emphases to different chapters and information and data on the various countries and regions come from different sources, we will try to make a comparative summary of the three papers, covering basic trends in urbanization perceived in the three subregions; common issues in the analysis of urban research; similar problems in the development of urban studies; and similar proposals for a future agenda.

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By the year 2000 Latin America will be the most urbanized region of the developing world. After a century of explosive urbanization and demographic expansion, new urban trends are taking shape, presenting new challenges to urban research and development. Fertility rates have declined and in several countries the demographic transition has already had a significant impact on the pattern of urbanization.

Increasing globalization of the international economy has started to impose substantial shifts in the spatial structures of production. Decentralization of industry, technological change and increased orientation towards worldwide trade have all contributed to a changing geography of industry and employment.

Neoliberal policy reforms and macroeconomic change have also had a substantial impact on the whole of the region. Recession and adjustment have meant cutbacks in public services, privatization of state-managed firms, reduction in the number of new job opportunities and falling real salaries. Severe stabilization policies implemented to deal with the economic crisis and foreign debt have caused considerable drops in domestic macroeconomic indicators.

This scenario has affected each country differently since they are at different stages of political-economic and urban development, and they vary in degrees of dependency on the international economy.

Tables 1 and 2 show data on 16 Latin American countries. The World Development Report (1991) is the source of Table 1. Information in Table 2 comes basically from the three papers and national census data.

Table 1. Basic Indicators for Latin America - GNDP, HDI and Population

Country            GNDP             UNDP's Human       Population
.               per capita ($)     Development Index    (million)
.                  1989                1991              1989

Argentina          2160                0.854               32
Bolivia            620                 0.416               7
Brazil             2540                0.759               147
Chile              1770                0.878               13
Colombia           1200                0.757               32
Costa Rica         1780                0.876               3
Ecuador            1020                0.655               10
El Salvador        1070                0.524               5
Guatemala          910                 0.488               9
Honduras           900                 0.492               5
Mexico             2010                0.838               85
Nicaragua          -                   0.612               4
Panama             1760                0.796               2
Peru               1010                0.644               21
Uruguai            2620                0.905               3
Venezuela          2450                0.848               19

Source: World Development Report, 1991. / Desarrolo Humano: Informe 1991. Bogota: Tercer Mundo, 1991.

According to the World Development Report, Latin American countries are "upper-middle-income" and "lower-middle-income" countries. But, as table 1 shows, there are striking differences in GNP per capita. Eight countries have per capita GNP between 1760 and 2620 a year and a similar standard of living (HDI Index): Uruguay, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile and Panama. These countries group 304 million out of a total of 397 million in the continent. The remnant 93 million belong to countries with a GNP varying between a minimum 620 and a maximum 1200. Peru, Ecuador and Colombia stand out within this second group of countries as they present a relative better performance according to the HDI Index.

Table 2 allows some comparison of trends in urbanization.

Table 2. Population Growth and Urbanization - Latin America

Country          Average Anual                                   Urbanization
.                Growth of Total.            Urban Population                Pop. in    Pop. in       Number of      Annual Rates
.                Population              Percentage       Average            Capital    Cities        Cities over    of Growth of
.                   (%)                  of Total         Annual             City as    over 1        1 Million      the Biggest
.                                        Population       Growth Rates       (%)        Mill. as                     City by
.                                                          (%)                           (%) Urb.Pop.                 by Decade (*)

.             1965-80/80-89/89-2000      1965 / 1989      1965-80/1980-89    1990       1990          1990           60   70   80
.             (I)     (II)  (III)       (IV)    (V)       (VI)    (VII)      (VIII)     (IX)          (X)                 (XI)

Argentina     1.6     1.4   1.1          76     86        2.2     1.8        41         49            3              2.2  1.6  1.5
Bolivia       2.5     2.7   2.8          40     51        3.1     4.3        33         33            1              3.7  3.9  4.0
Brazil        2.4     2.2   1.7          50     74        4.3     3.5         2         47           14              6.8  4.5  1.7
Chile         1.7     1.7   1.3          72     85        2.6     2.3        42         42            1              3.5  2.2  2.0
Colombia      2.5     2.0   1.6          54     69        3.7     3.0        21         39            4              5.8  3.0  -
Costa Rica    2.7     2.4   1.9          38     47        4.7     4.5        77         -             -              4.5  3.9  -
Ecuador       3.1     2.7   2.2          37     55        3.5     3.3        21         49            2              4.4  4.2  4.1
El Salvador   2.8     1.4   2.1          39     44        3.2     2.0        25         -             -              4.4  -    -
Guatemala     2.8     2.9   2.8          34     39        3.5     3.4        23         -             -              3.6  2.2  -
Honduras      3.2     3.5   2.9          26     43        5.5     5.5        35         -             -              5.5  -    -
Mexico        3.1     2.1   1.8          55     72        4.4     3.0        32         45            4              5.4  4.0  -
Nicaragua     3.1     3.4   3.1          43     59        4.6     4.6        44         44            -              6.8  -    -
Panama        2.6     2.2   1.6          44     53        3.4     2.9        37         -             -              4.8  3.0  -
Peru          2.8     2.3   2.1          52     70        4.3     3.1        41         41            1              5.1  4.5  3.9
Uruguai       0.4     0.6   0.6          81     85        0.7     0.8        45         45            1              0.5  -    0.2
Venezuela     3.5     2.8   2.2          70     84        4.8     2.7        25         29            2              -    3.8  3.0

Sources: World Development Report, 1991. (*) Rodriguez, Spinoza and Herzer, 1993; table 2 Valladares and Coelho, 1993; table 5 Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean, 1992.

Today Latin America is a predominantly urbanized continent. By 1965, eight out of sixteen countries had already crossed the urban threshold (50% of the total population in cities): Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. At the end of the 1980s, all but Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras had crossed the rural-urban divide.

Countries can be grouped according to the degree of their urbanization (Table 2,column V). The first group (over 70% urbanized) includes Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and Peru. In Argentina, Uruguay and Chile urbanization started very early, in the 1920s and 1930s. Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and Brazil began their urban "takeoff" in the 1940s. A second group, with 50 to 70% urban population, is formed by Colombia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Panama and Bolivia. The countries of Central America make up a third group of predominantly rural societies.

Latin American urbanization has always been associated with high rates of population growth. For many decades, however, the urban population has been growing much faster than total population. During the period 1965-1980 while the average annual growth rate of the urban population in all countries was over 3%, that of the total population was over 2%. The only exeptions were Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, the three countries that were early urbanized (Table 2, columns I and VI).

Another traditional feature of Latin American urbanization has been the importance of rural-urban migration associated with the pattern historically characterized as the "primate city". Until the 1960s most countries' urban population was highly concentrated in their main cities: Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Caracas, Santiago, Lima, San José, Panama City are well known examples of macrocephalism; Quito-Guayaquil and Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo were examples of marked bicephalic concentration. Colombia was the only country whose urban network was more balanced in the 1960s.

Recent census data point to important changes in the pattern of urbanization: a) population and urban growth rates have been decelerating considerably; b) the biggest cities are growing less quickly than expected. Mexico City and São Paulo have become examples of the reversal of the "metropolitan explosion trend"; and c) the urban network in the 90's is already showing a relatively balanced hierarchy of cities with medium-sized cities increasing in importance.

Table 2 helps illustrate these trends. In the period 1980-1989 Latin American countries experienced a slow-down in the rate of population growth. The only exceptions were Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua - the remaining rural countries on the continent - and Bolivia. Projections for the year 2000 suggest that population growth will continue at slow pace.

Changes in the rate of growth of urban population have also been occurring. A comparison of the periods 1965-1980 and 1980-89 indicates that although urbanization rates continue to be very significant (and higher than the rates of total population growth) they have started to decelerate. The phenomenon is visible in all countries, most notably in Venezuela (where deceleration has been most striking - from 4.8 to 2.7), and Mexico, Peru and El Salvador. The only exception is Bolivia where the rate of urban population growth increased from 3.1 to 4.3 between one period and the next.

Although the pace of urbanization is slowing, most cities continue to grow. Growth, however, is becoming less concentrated in capital cities. The deceleration of the urban growth rate of the biggest city in each country (column XI) is a strong indicator of the trend towards deconcentration. All urbanized countries except Bolivia have been experiencing a fall in this rate since the 1970s. In the highly-urbanized Latin American nations,the "metropolitan explosion" has apparently peaked, the most striking case being São Paulo (whose growth rate went from 4.5 in the 1970s to 1.7 in the 1980s). The growth of traditional primate cities is also decelerating considerably: in 30 years Lima saw its growth rate fall from 5.1 to 3.9 and Santiago's rate dropped from 3.5 to 2.0 in the same period. Mexico City's growth rate fell from 5.4 in the 1960s to 4.0 in the 1970s. Buenos Aires was already growing slowly in the 1960s (2.2%) and continued at a steady rate (1.5%) in the 1980s. In Central America the trend is less clear although countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama did experience a deceleration in the growth of their capital cities between the 1960s and the 1970s (Table 2 column XI). Most countries in the subregion are still predominantly rural and the few big urban agglomerations tend to concentrate all urban growth.

In some countries the system of cities is becoming more balanced. As shown in Table 2, column VIII, only six countries out of the sixteen had more than 40% of their urban population in the capital city in 1990: Costa Rica (77%), Uruguay (45%), Nicaragua (44%), Chile (42%), Argentina (41%) and Peru (41%). These are the cases where the primacy model still seems to be relevant. Presenting a much less concentrated urban network (column X) are Brazil (with fourteen cities with over one million inhabitants), Colombia (three cities), Ecuador (two cities) Mexico (four cities) and Venezuela (two cities). A comparison of columns VIII and IX (population in capital city and population in cities of one million or more as a percentage of the urban population) shows to what extent these countries are heading towards a more balanced distribution of their urban populations.

The new pattern of urbanization actually points to the increasing importance of medium-sized cities. This was stressed in all three papers. Rodríguez, Espinoza and Herzer report that in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay medium-sized cities are growing at higher rates than the national average and the biggest cities. Schteingart also recalls that in both Colombia and Mexico middle-sized cities recorded greater growth than the large metropolises. Brazil and Venezuela were found to follow the same trend, as reported by Valladares and Coelho3 . Migration flows have shifted towards medium-sized cities that play the role of regional centers. Their recent growth has also been associated with new patterns of spacial and economic reorganization. This is true in Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Chile, Argentina. In most countries the magnitude and dynamics of migration have changed: the proverbial movement from the countryside to the city has become less relevant than the migration between and within urban areas. In Central America this process has yet to occur as total urban population is still concentrated in the capital city.(3)

This brief analysis of Latin American urban trends may offer a more optimistic outlook than the forecasts of a decade ago that projected urban chaos continue to face imbalance in the demand and the supply of labor. Urban management will continue to be a great challenge in a context of recession, scarcity of resources and increasing poverty. Of the sixteen Latin American countries considered here only six (Uruguay, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Venezuela and Mexico) had a Human Development Index (HDI) over 0.8 in 1991.

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Urban research in Latin America has been experiencing consistent development and growing importance since the 1970s. Such development, however, has been uneven throughout the continent. In general, those countries where the urbanization process started earlier have a longer tradition of urban research. The most recently urbanized countries have only started to examine urban issues.

Throughout the last decades the community of urban researchers has become very diverse. It includes geographers, architects, sociologists, economists, anthropologists, planners, historians and lawyers. Research florished in postgraduate programs, innumerable private and public research centers, as well as in NGOs. Today the spectrum of the scientific community comprises conventional accademic researchers, accademics working with NGOs and researchers and planners in the public sector - all of whom may be switching positions.

Several research networks are in operation in some countries and subregions. However, there is little communication between scholars in Spanish -and Portuguese - speaking Latin America. Although attempts have been made through the organization of some international conferences (4) ,researchers tend to work in isolation in their subregion or country. Continental information networks do not exist and research institutes and postgraduate programs exchange very little.

Perspectives for future research activities are grim. Research funds are decreasing and in most countries universities are undergoing a severe crisis that has already started to affect the continuity and quality of urban studies

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The Development of Urban Studies

In a few countries the urban tradition has roots stretching beyond the 1960s. The founding fathers were predominantly geographers, sociologists and architects. During the 1940s and 1950s countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru made agreements with foreign universities (mainly American and French), bringing in scholars who, in addition to teaching, helped define research topics in geography, sociology and anthropology. Foreign involvement was also crucial in drafting the first urban and regional plans. Foreign consultancy through international agencies spread even in less urbanized regions like Central America.

The 1960s were a landmark in the development of urban studies in Latin America. The high priority given to urban problems in this decade is expressed in the creation of the first university departments and private centers for research and training in urban and regional problems: the Center for Urban Regional Studies (CEUR) in Buenos Aires; the Interdisciplinary Center for Urban Development (CIDU) and the Center for Social Development of Latin America (DESAL) in Santiago; the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP) and the Center for Studies and Promotion of Urban Development (Desco) in Lima; the Center for Development Studies of the Central University of Venezuela (CENDES) in Caracas; the Center for Economic and Demographic Studies at El Colegio de Mexico and the Institute for Geography at the National Autonomous University of Mexico; the Division of Population Studies of the Colombian Association of Medical Schools and the Center for Interamerican Housing and Planning (CINVA) in Bogotá. In Brazil the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP) and the University Institute of Rio de Janeiro (IUPERJ) appeared in the late 60s to quickly become important centers where urban research had a place to flourish. The already existent Brazilian Institute of Municipal Administration (IBAM) as of the 60s gained new impulse.

A stimulus to research also came from an increasing belief in the importance of planning. By the 1960s many governments had created planning agencies and were encouraging the introduction of planning courses at university level. This trend is very clear in the cases of Brazil and Venezuela.

The development of Latin American urban research in the 60s is also indebted to two networks: CLACSO and SIAP. The Urban and Regional Development Commission of CLACSO was very active as of the end of the 60s by promoting seminars and stimulating publications. It sponsored, for example the Chilean journal EURE - Revista Latinoamericana de Estudios Urbano Regionales. SIAP (Inter-American Society of Planners) brought together the community of planners and edited the first Latin-American journal that had a continental scope.

The 1970s were highly favorable to the further development of urban studies. In most countries the number of postgraduate courses rapidly multiplied and specialized courses and research centers were set up to train professionals. In Brazil no less than six master's degree programs in urban and regional planning were created in the federal universities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Porto Alegre, Recife and Salvador. In Mexico, El Colegio de Mexico also started a master's program in urban development and the existing postgraduate course in urban studies at the Faculty of Architecture at UNAM was consolidated. In Argentina, at the beginning of the 1970s, a few postgraduate programs were founded by specialized research centers, the most prestigious being the Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CEUR). In Central America the Central American University Confederation (CSUCA) began to promote both national and comparative research. In Venezuela the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning of the Central University also instituted a postgraduate course.

Government had a central role in this process in some countries. Besides funding the postgraduate programs, it played a leading role by creating new public agencies for urban and metropolitan planning (in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil). Furthermore, increased demand for applied research by the state technical apparatus in several countries acted as strong stimulus for the development of research activities.

The 1980s were a crucial decade for the development of research in Latin America. In some countries urban research had already attained a high degree of institutional development in both the academic sphere and in actual planning (Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela). In others urban research found a place in newly-emerging NGOs (most of which academically oriented) and in private research centers, especially in those countries where authoritarian regimes restricted the scope and freedom of social research in the universities (Chile, Argentina and Uruguay). Well known examples are the Centre for Social Studies and Education (SUR) in Santiago, the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED-AL) in Buenos Aires, the Center for Information and Studies of Uruguay (CIESU) and the Interdisciplinary Center for Development Studies (CIEDUR) in Montevideo.

Specialized journals were created: Medio Ambiente y Urbanización (Argentina), Espaço e Debates (Brazil), Ciudad y Cultura (Peru), Estudios Demograficos y Urbanos (Mexico), Ciudades (Mexico), Vivienda (Mexico), Revista Urbana (Venezuela), Cuadernos del CENDES (Venezuela), Proposiciones (Chile). On the other hand some social science journals started giving more space to urban studies, among them the Revista Mexicana de Sociologia, the Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Politicas y Sociales and Estudios Politicos. In Brazil, Cadernos CEBRAP, DADOS, BIB-Boletim Informativo e Bibliográfico das Ciencias Sociais and Lua Nova were important. In Colombia urban research results were disseminated through non-specialized journals such as Revista Foro, Ideologia y Sociedad, Economia Colombiana and Coyuntura Social.

The early 1980s were a constructive period because postgraduate programs continued to be funded. At least seven new higher education centers were founded in Mexico, most of them outside the capital city; and no less than six new master's programs and three doctoral courses were instituted in Venezuela. Several universities in the Northeast of Brazil opened master's programs.

However, cutbacks soon began to affect local funding for large-scale projects and university budgets. By the mid-1980s the National Councils for Science and Technology of Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina were only funding individual study grants. Heavy restrictions on research in the social sciences started to affect aid for urban research. The previous demand for research from governmental agencies also suffered a sharp reduction owing to the general economic crisis.

The crisis had a very strong impact on the production and development of urban studies in Latin America. Many groups of researchers dispersed and many projects were interrupted, while ongoing lines of research began to fall by the wayside. As a result academic research was restricted to the production of theses and individual research projects, with large-scale research projects badly affected.

International funding was insufficient to reverse this trend and also became more diffuse. The Ford Foundation, for example, had concentrated its support on major research and postgraduate study centers in the social sciences (many of them involved in urban research) through the 1970s; it began to diversify its grants, channeling them towards action-oriented NGO projects.

The Central American Countries were an exception. In the late 1980s they were able to develop urban studies thanks especially to CSUCA and the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO). After a severe political crisis that held back research in the early 1980s, Central America is gradually catching up with the help of foreign support.

The existence of a consolidated and diversified scientific community minimized the negative effects of the crisis on research activities. The formation of research networks in many countries and subregions throughout the 1980s indicates the level of maturity of the community of urban researchers in some areas of Latin America. Networks have been formed to bring together institutions and individuals. In Mexico the National Network for Urban Research currently has 377 individual members in 24 different states, including Mexico City. In Brazil the National Association of Postgraduate Programs in Urban and Regional Planning (ANPUR) has about 20 affiliated programs and research centers. With a broader geographical scope and headquarters in Santiago, REDES brings together approximately 75 individual members from different research organizations that study urban services. Another example is the Latin American Cities, Local Government and Urban Policy Network of academic researchers and public servants from municipal planning departments.

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Trends in Urban Research : Changing Paradigms

Latin American research has always felt the impact of foreign theories. However international influences were not felt with the same intensity in all countries. During the 1960s functionalism was more influential in some countries than in others. In the decade that followed the Marxist approach developed by French urban sociology became a leading paradigm.

Overarching theories have also developed in Latin America to account for phenomena that social scientists have identified as typical of their times. Despite the specificities of each country at least three main approaches have influenced research.

The first, emerging in the late 1950s, coincides with the "discovery" of the urban problem and was directly connected to the growing magnitude and scope of Latin American urbanization. Most countries in the region were experiencing what was formerly called "over-urbanization", a situation where a rapid rate of urbanization did not mean a corresponding growth in industry but a shift of people from low-productivity rural agricultural employment to low-productivity urban employment or underemployment. The clearest symptoms of over-urbanization were found in major cities, where an imbalance between rapid population growth and insufficient employment opportunities produced spreading poverty and the mushrooming squatter settlements. "Favelas" in Brazil, "poblaciones" in Chile, "barrios" in Venezuela and Ecuador, "vilas miserias" in Argentina, "barriadas" in Peru were understood as maladjustment and pathology. Hauser (1961) and Quintero (1964) show how widespread these ideas were among different scholars.

The general concern with development and how to overcome underdevelopment was perhaps best expressed in the Latin-American version of the modernization approach (Germani, 1965;1969). The urban-rural dichotomy was emphasized and used to explain the difficulties of the hordes of rural migrants in adjusting as they flooded major cities, "incapable" of adapting to the employment opportunities provided by the developing urban economy and to urban way of life. Marginality theory emerged from the discussions of social change by proponents of the modernization approach. DESAL in Chile played a central role in diffusing the new paradigm (DESAL, 1969, 1970; Vekemans and Venegas, 1966; Vekemans, 1969). Inheriting the dualistic perspective, the theory of marginality tried to explain urban poverty and the non-integration of the recently urbanized poor into the urban life and economy. The concept of marginality quickly extended from a geographical and economic notion to a sociological and psychological one. The idea of a "culture of poverty" (Lewis, 1966) inspired by the Mexican urban context quickly gained notoriety.

By the end of the 1960s both over-urbanization and marginality had provoked much debate (Mangin, 1967; Perlman, 1976) by bringing to center stage the discussion of the role of the poor in economic and urban development. The debate initiated by Quijano (1971) and Nun (1969) was soon joined by Cardoso (1971), Oliveira (1972) and Kowarick (1975). As a result of their research, the role of the state was introduced into the analysis of Latin American urbanization.

During the 1970s new ways emerged of seeing old problems, as a reaction to theories that had held sway until then. In the new debate the discussion of development versus underdevelopment became a discussion of development versus dependency. The process of urbanization was seen as the result of specific kind of - capitalist but dependent - economic development with particularly significant effects on urban development. Theorists now talked about "dependent urbanization", a process strongly linked to the relationship between peripheral and central countries (Castells and Velez, 1971). This concept derived from the theory of "dependency", whose principal authors were Cardoso and Faletto (1970). Their basic premise was that dependency was expressed in the articulation of the interests of national capitalism with the interests of the rest of the capitalist system.

In the view of dependency theorists, the national state had a crucial role in industrialization - and consequently urbanization - joining with capital and the elites in the process of capital accumulation and the spatial distribution of labor. The state's role was to lay the foundation for the reproduction of the capitalist industrial process and to be constantly active, transferring resources and funds to industry, regulating the price of labor, investing in infrastructure and, consequently, lowering the costs of capital.

According to dependency theorists, industrialization developed a dynamic of accumulation that depended on the expansion of the traditional service sector. With a growing capacity to absorb excess labor, the "bloated" service sector was seen as functional for the type of urban accumulation necessary to the expansion of the capitalist system (Oliveira, 1972).

A structural view of urbanization, clearly and heavily marked by Marxist thought, began to develop and unfold. In Brazil, Singer (1968; 1971), Kowarick (1975;1979) and Oliveira (1972) were the theory's most important proponents. In Colombia, Pradilla (1982;1987) was one of the first scholars to start Marxist research.

The notion of "urban spoliation" (Kowarick, 1979) became a basic reference point for the new theorists, especially with regard to the conditions for reproduction of the labor force in the context of the model of accumulation. The development of the notion of spoliation coincides with and becomes linked to the concept of "peripheralization", the increasing segregation of the urban poor into fringe areas. In the spoliation process, the periphery was considered the preeminent place for the reproduction of the popular classes.

With this approach, understanding the role of the state gained new importance and was seen as fundamental to understanding urbanization. In the first place, the state was to create the infrastructure for industrial expansion, offering short and long-term finance to businesses and investing directly; secondly, it was charged with generating the collective consumer goods tied to the reproduction of the labor force (housing, transportation, health, education); and finally it was to maintain social order, necessary for the functioning of a given model of accumulation.

This analysis stressed the political dimension of urbanization as it emphasized the double spoliation of the popular classes: as a labor force subjugated to capital and as city dwellers submitted to the logic of metropolitan expansion, which increasingly denied access by the working class to collective consumer services.

This new perspective facilitated the incorporation of the French marxist paradigm into Latin American urban research. The works of Lefebvre, Castells, Lojkine, Topalov and Preteceille were translated into both Spanish and Portuguese and helped the dissemination of the new urban sociology throughout the 1970s.

The marxist approach renewed thinking about urban issues in three ways: a) by rejecting the idea of the autonomy of urban space and accepting the concept of socially produced space; b) by politicizing urban problems through the emphasis on the relation between the state and social classes produced by urban contradictions; c) by introducing a broader array of actors on the urban scene, most notably social movements.

By the end of the 1980s Latin American scholars began questioning Marxist urban sociology. A critical movement arose and researchers started to have the same concerns ( Santos, 1981;Carrion, 1990; Unda, 1990; Coraggio, 1990; Jaramillo and Cuervo, 1990; Duhau, 1991): a) the adoption of the Marxist urban sociology model, basically French, was too "mechanical" and was not able to take into account the specificities of the different Latin American societies; b) the emphasis on the state as ubiquitous and monolithic did not take into account the internal differentiation of the state apparatus and the various state agencies. Furthermore, this view resulted in a biased conception of the relations between the state and the broad spectrum of social actors.

Nonetheless, the renewal of urban studies by Marxist thought left a legacy whose influence will continue to be felt in the 1990s.

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Main Areas Covered by Urban Research

During the past 30 years a considerable body of literature has been produced in Latin America, mostly by scholars, researchers and government agencies. This literature is scattered in local libraries, ill-known within Latin American countries and outside the continent. There are no national or subregional bibliographical information networks about current publications and research projects. Little communication exists between foreign and local scholars who have been using empirical skills to understand contemporary urban and social processes. The few readers on urbanization in Latin America that do exist in English (Hauser, 1961; Gilbert, Hardoy and Ramirez, 1982; Rabinovitz and Trueblood, 1971-1973) do not give a complete account of the bulk of the contributions from academia and government agencies. A unique effort was made by Morse (1969) in his survey with commentary on publications on Latin American Urbanization. It still stands as a central reference.

One of the goals of the URBAN RESEARCH IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD research project was to make an updated review of key topics in urban studies. Bibliographical research was conducted, as broadly as possible, in each one of the three Latin America subregions as defined by the project. Each paper presents a summary survey of the literature and provides a bibliography that only includes main references.

We will limit ourselves here to a comparative description of the key topics identified in each subregion. The presentation that follows is based on Chart 1: Bibliographical References by Themes - Brazil; Chart 2: Themes Arising from the Bibliographies - Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru. As for Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Central America, the bibliographical data has not been set out in tables or charts.

Different schemes of classification were used. In the case of Brazil the starting point was the URBANDATA database, which classifies 4,000 references according to 21 themes (each reference being listed under one or more themes). The distribution of references according to their publication date is also given. Chart 1 shows the movement and flow of publications according to theme and researcher preferences in recent decades.

A bibliographical sample was produced for the Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Uruguay subregion, excluding Uruguay. A list of 100 to 150 titles important to an understanding of the urban process in each country was selected and classified under 16 headings. This sample is presented in Chart 2, with themes distributed by country. The themes are also grouped along two axes: a) the urban process in its economic and social dimensions; b) urban management in its technical and political dimensions.

For Mexico eight themes were identified among 1548 bibliographical references from the 1970s and 1980s. In Colombia 400 titles were examined but not classified by theme. The 358 titles from the Central American countries refer basically to Costa Rica.

The evaluation undertaken in the three sub-regions shows that:

  • in all of Latin America, the field of urban studies reflects major historical changes that have been taking place during the last decades, leading the continent towards urbanization, industrialization, modernization, and institutional democratization;
  • urban research has contributed to a better understanding of the different models and problems of development by showing the impact of structural processes on both urbanization and the organization of cities and society;
  • urban research has not, however, attained the same degree of development in all countries. Central America, the least urbanized of the subregions, has not yet developed a tradition in urban research. In addition, political crises have hindered the continuity of institutions and studies;
  • during recent years research has been giving less emphasis on theory. Empirical studies are predominant and have produced a more focused understanding of urban issues. With some exceptions, theorization has been quite limited. While during the 1970s broad projects were noteworthy,in the 1980s, due to the crisis and the lack of resources, small investigations became the rule.
  • there has been everywhere a visible preference to study big cities, albeit the importance of middle-size cities has been recognized.
The three papers suggest common trends in research interests and a similar movement and flow of subject matter. It seems that major issues characterizing each decade (5) quickly developed into research topics. Which are they?

In the 1960s and early 1970s, scholars were concerned with the general demographic dynamic that was provoking accelerated urbanization and rural-urban migratory flows (Hauser, 1961; Durand and Pelaez, 1969; Munoz et al., 1973). Together with the processes of migration, industrialization, and modernization, the city-countryside duality gave rise to much debate. Countless studies were undertaken to understand the relationship between the migrant and the city, in the context of "marginality". Investigations multiplied in big centers such as Lima, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Caracas, looking at the ways migrants adapted to the labor market, their integration into urban culture, their political behavior, and their way of life in so-called "marginal settlements" (Mattos Mar, 1961; Mangin, 1967; Cardona, 1969; Ray, 1969; Turner, 1969; Peattie, 1970; Leeds and Leeds, 1970; Montano, 1976).

Society's modernization in the context of the rural-urban transition became a key area of urban studies. In all those countries where urbanization was taking place at a rapid pace, essential investigations provided a detailed analysis of the elements constituting the urbanization process, the different patterns and degrees of urbanization, the organization of various urban networks, and regional imbalances (Friedmann, 1966; Faria, 1976; Unikel et al., 1976; Campo, 1977; CSUCA, 1978; Merrick and Graham, 1979; Alvarado and Estaba, 1985). Researchers insisted on two themes, one being the relationship between urbanization and development and another the consequences of rapid change in the structure of production, which reduced the relative importance of agriculture and increased that of nonagricultural activities.

As the three documents show, the following themes were present in most countries:

  • The Urbanization Process;
  • Internal Migration;
  • Popular Settlements;
  • Urban Poverty (under the heading of "marginality").
In the seventies, the economic dynamics of cities became a prominent theme, as emphasis was given to the study of employment and the labor market. Such emphasis produced new themes and new ways of approaching existent ones. The urban labor market and the informal economic sector became "first class" topics of investigation. The distinction between a traditional and a modern sector was soon supplanted by the notion that the two sectors are articulated and interdependent. Many investigations were undertaken, again in the main Latin American capital cities, to show the informal sector's importance as a central source of labor opportunities for the urban population (Santos, 1975; Tokman and Souza, 1976; Raczynsky, 1977; Tokman, 1978; Klein and Tokman, 1979; Souza and Faria, 1980). The study of informality was taken up years later by De Soto (1986) who not only examined informal work but informal access to land and housing as well as informal practices in business and transport.

The seventies witnessed another important change in the focus of research. The city-countryside duality began to blur. By the end of the decade, as a result of shifts in population and the economic concentration of capital and labor in metropolitan agglomerations, attention had turned from the city to the metropolis. The increasing number of cities with populations in the millions led scholars to look at the phenomenon of metropolitization as a new specificity of the urban process. Special attention was given to the role of national development policies in metropolitan growth, to increasing polarization within metropolitan areas' internal structure, to the decay of central districts and their prospects for reconstruction and repopulation ( CENDES, 1968; Garza, 1985;1990;Geiger and Davidovich, 1986; Fernandez and Lungo, 1988; Navarro and Gonzalez, 1989).

Urban planning emerged as a need and as a research topic (Hardoy and Geisse, 1972). Existing problems, like housing shortages and the lack and deterioration of services and infrastructure, intensified and grew in scale in all metropolitan agglomerations. The launching of housing policies throughout the continent generated a wave of housing studies with emphasis on low income housing policies - resettlement, site and services (Garza and Schteingart, 1978; Valladares, 1978), and urban legislation concerning land use (Azuela, 1989). In parallel a whole body of literature on self-help housing developed (CIDU, 1972; Alvarado et al. 1973; Maricatto, 1979; Valladares, 1980; Pradilla, 1982; 1987; Cuenya et al., 1984;Gilbert and Ward, 1985).

Urban research priorities in the seventies covered the following topics:

  • Employment and the Labor Market;
  • Urban Planning;
  • Housing and Land;
  • Urban Poverty (under the heading of "survival strategies" and "informality").
The eighties led to new directions in research: scholars broadened their focus to include the political and social dynamics of cities and society. Contemporary issues like the world crisis and the decline of authoritarian governments in Latin America were identified as having a strong and direct impact on the urban scene. Changes in economic organization and technology, occurring since the seventies in the context of world crisis, provoked in most of the continent's economies a severe decline of real wages and exacerbation of poverty and inequality. As a practice, urban planning lost much of its credibility. Funding for the provision of services and infrastructure became scant as governments faced difficulties in achieving and maintaining macroeconomic balance. Long-standing authoritarian regimes had caused a serious crisis in political representation, reinforcing previously existing processes of segregation and social exclusion. Populations responded with organized grassroots protest movements and spontaneous outbursts (Castells, 1983). The notion of citizenship was at the core of most movements and organizations protagonized by pobladores from the peripheral and central areas of Latin America cities. In a parallel trend, criminality and violence, without being natural components of urban life, found in the urban setting's social segregation fertile ground for their development.

This new set of circumstances reoriented the urban research agenda of the eighties. A new order of priorities emerged. Environmental problems related to air quality, sewage disposal, and treatment of industrial and domestic waste became a concern of the academy and a few governmental agencies, fostering research particularly in countries like Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Colombia (Jansen, 1984). Issues of urban management assumed greater relevance in the context of the "chaotic" growth of metropolises, inadequacy of services and infrastructure, and continued impoverishment of their populations (Cuervo, Jaramillo et all., 1988). Grassroots participation in local government became a central research theme as constitutional democracy was restored and citizens began to organize (Cardoso, 1983;Alonso, 1986;1988; Jacobi, 1989; Assies et al., 1990; Nuñes, 1990). In the few countries where reform and decentralization of the State occurred (Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela), local government began to capture scholars' attention (Torres, 1986; Padua and Vanneph, 1986; Herzer and Pires, 1988; Borja et al., 1989). The municipality took the place of the metropolis as the territorial base of inquiry (Carrion, Hardoy et al., 1986; Delamieras, 1987; Duhau, 1988; Velardi et al., 1991). It seemed one could better understand the scope and range of urban problems and analyse the strategies of the different social actors by looking at the local level.

The following topics of research came to the fore:

  • Local Government;
  • Urban Social Movements;
  • Urban Management;
  • Urban Infrastructure and Services;
  • Urban Environment;
  • Urban Poverty (under the heading of "inequality").
This flow of investigation themes should not be taken as a rigid or static assumption. Topics emerging in a given decade in a given country or region may have appeared in another only years later; the best example is the Central American subregion. Most research topics survived the decades in which they emerged. Some consolidating their preeminence such as the study of urbanization ( Portes and Lungo, 1992;1992); its relation with the changing occupational structure (Roberts and Oliveira, 1989), studies on housing and housing policies (Schteingart, 1989; Sachs, 1990; Taschner and Sachs, 1990; Zicardi, 1991), the urban environment (Ward, 1990; Schteingart and d`Andrea, 1991). Other topics lost vitality such as migration and urban planning. Many were simply reframed, the model case being that of urban poverty. Originally studied under the heading of "marginality," with migrants personifying the poor and being held responsible for all and every urban problem, this issue later came to be designated by the term "informal sector" (Contreras and Suarez, 1972; Jelin, 1978).What previously had been characterized as unemployment and underemployment came to be considered "survival strategies" (Cariola, 1986;1992) With the passing of time, the "urban poor" substituted the migrant as the central category in the study of poverty in cities (Eckstein, 1982). By the 1980s, the issue of urban poverty had been identified basically as one of inequality: income inequalities and gaps in spatial, occupational, and educational opportunities compounded disparities grounded in gender and race (Pastore, 1983; Hasembalg and Silva, 1988; Tolosa, 1991)

It is also important to note several topics that were mentioned in the three papers, yet do not appear in the comparative scheme provided here. While not yet appearing as independent themes in Latin America as a whole, they do constitute important areas of research in a few countries. Among these are urban violence, including studies on criminality, delinquency, drug traffic, and violence against children and women (Coelho, 1978; 1987; Paixao, 1982; Pinheiro, 1983; Garcia, 1987; Coelho, 1988; Predazzini and Sanchez, 1992; Zaluar, 1994) and associativism, with emphasis on neighborhood participation, mutual aid, and interhousehold cooperation (Lomnitz, 1975; Castillo, 1984; Zaluar, 1985; Massolo and Schteingart, 1987; Gonzales de la Rocha, 1991; Connolly et al., 1991; Coulomb, 1991).

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A general idea of the institutional development of urban studies in Latin America has already been given in section 2.1. In the present section, we will try to depict the institutional framework as it stands today, drawing once again from the original papers prepared for each subregion. Important differences in data provided by the three papers result in a less comparative analysis.

Table 3 Institutional Framework - Latin America

Country            PGP       URC        GA        PRC       NGO       Total   

Argentina           1        13         1         13         0         28
Bolivia             0         0         2          4         0          6
Central America     0         4         1          1         1          7
Brazil             42        12         16         6         8         84
Chile               2         3         0          0         4          9
Colombia            0         4         4          0         3         11
Ecuador             2         0         1          0         2          5
Mexico              4         6         2          0         2         14
Peru                2         2         0          0         3          7
Uruguai             0         1         0          2         0          3
Venezuela          15        21         6          3         0         45
Total              68        66         33        29         23        219

PGP Post Graduate Program / URC University Research Center / GA Governmental Agency / PRC Private Research Center / NGO Non-governmental Agency

Table 3 brings together information on institutions supporting urban research in ten different countries and in Central America. The data appearing in the table do not cover the universe of existing research institutions, but give an idea of proportions in each group. Only for Brazil and Venezuela was an exhaustive listing provided.

Institutions were grouped in five categories: a) postgraduate programs; b) university research centers; c) governmental agencies; d) private research centers; e) NGOs. Differences did occur in the classification of institutions, particularly in relation to private research centers and NGOs, which in some countries are not clearly distinguishable.

In all countries except Bolivia, urban research is being conducted predominantly in the university context, whether in postgraduate courses or in university research centers. On a continental scale, such centers account for more than half the total number of institutions. This concentration reflects the emphasis given in the past to higher education and institutional development. It also expresses the leading role maintained by the university in several countries (Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela), despite the economic crisis. The same has not, however, been the trend in Chile, Peru, and Argentina, where authoritarian regimes severely restricted universities' capacity and freedom for social research.

Governmental agencies are important in at least three countries - Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela - where planning bodies have been active in research. In Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru, on the contrary, large public organizations are not engaged in urban research. In Mexico, very little has been carried out by the public administration.

Non-governmental organizations have been involved very little in urban research in countries like Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolívia, and Uruguay. In Brazil, NGOs are multiplying and are predominantly action oriented. In Chile, Ecuador and Peru, NGOs have asserted the importance of linking research to practical action and they are carrying out the majority of current research. In Central America, NGOs have just entered the scene.

Private research centers have emerged in only a few countries: Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Brazil, and Venezuela. Created by scholars concerned with the importance of applied knowledge, such institutions are beginning to identify themselves as NGOs.

Within this wide range of institutions, the future of financing support and the production of human resources emerge as areas of overlapping concern. All three papers, when referring to research funding, stress the reduction of national support and increasing dependence of research activities on foreign funds. Even in those countries where the State traditionally has invested in the university (Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia) national support is rapidly decreasing as a result of structural adjustment policies. Not only universities have been strongly hit, but also the different national science and technology councils (in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Ecuador) have determined severe restrictions on the social sciences in general and urban affairs in particular.

Detailed information presented for Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and Uruguay (Table 6 in Rodriguez, Espinoza and Herzer) shows that urban research depends basically on foreign financing from two main sources: a) international agencies ( UNDP, BID, UNCHS), whose resources are obtained through a state agency responsible for the distribution of funds assigned to the country; b) international public or private agencies dedicated to the production of research and promotion of development (SAREC,IDRC, FORD, VOLKSWAGEN, NOVIB), whose resources go to private research centers and NGOs.

While the information provided for other countries was not complete, it made clear that they also depend heavily on international funding. The Ford Foundation, for example, has played a crucial role in the development of social research in countries like Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. With the Foundation's support several post-graduate programs were able to take off; many scholars were sent for high-level training abroad; and research in specific areas were fostered due to special funding.

With respect to human resources, the paper by Rodriguez, Espinoza and Herzer calls attention to their importance for the future development of research activities in Latin America. In some cases (Central America, Bolivia, Uruguay), training programmes at the postgraduate level do not exist and researchers have to be trained abroad or through experience in local research centers. Technical skills are not yet an important aspect of academic training in most universities. In the area of urban management, very few attempts have been made to produce professional planners and efficient officials with an awareness of urban problems and the capacity to bring together knowledge and instrumental skills.

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The proposal of an urban research agenda was the final goal of the project URBAN RESEARCH IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD (phase one, 1991-1992). A careful reading of the three agendas formulated by the different subregions reveals similar proposals and common needs. In the final meeting of the project, held in Cairo (February 1993), it was possible to discuss the key topics of future research and to reach a consensus on the central problems that Latin American urban research faces today. We will try here to draw up a single proposal incorporating the common points.

General Recommendations

Some general orientations should be encouraged:
  • the agenda should be prospective and forward-looking

It should be able to capture new social and political dynamics in movement; foresee the impact of structural changes on the urban scene; anticipate the future scenario based on the analysis of trends. Basic research plays an important role in the implementation of this recommendation.

  • the agenda should be policy relevant
Without neglecting the importance of knowledge-building, urban research should be more proactive. Research can be very useful as an aid in formulating social and urban policies, assisting in decision-making, weighing different alternatives. Researchers should participate in defining relevant questions and researchable issues.-
  • the agenda should stimulate theoretical development
Future research should consider conceptual problems identified in current research so as to be able to raise hypothesis and produce synthesis. Conceptual restatements together with an effort towards conceptual refinements would lead to a more solid interpretation of urban phenomena. Methodologically, the need is to combine interpretative and analytic approaches.
  • the agenda should look for new linkages between research topics and issues
The relationship between structural and urban processes will be better perceived if unidimensional analysis is avoided and the tradition of studying single topics is overcome. There are no independent urban issues or isolated themes. One should look for linkages and consider the interrelation of processes, sectors, and geographical levels. Interdisciplinary research and a more pluridimensional approach to issues should be stimulated.
  • the agenda should also help promote comparative studies
Current literature in Latin American is marked by the absence of comparative studies. Introduction of a comparative approach would lead to a clearer understanding of both global processes' impact on national/local societies and specific characteristics of processes under study. Moreover, comparative studies would improve the analysis of interrelationships and help distinguish points of convergence between trends and processes. They would broaden the range of research questions and lead to a more analytical and less descriptive approach.
  • the agenda should, wherever pertinent, incorporate gender and race
To restrict analysis to traditional background variables (age, education, income) implicitly reduces the potential explanatory quality of urban research. Gender and race, for the purpose of urban research, should not constitute independent issues. Rather, they become relevant in relation to other issues (productive efficiency, social policy, labor market, local government, citizenship).

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Research Themes

Since the 1980s, three key processes have been taking place simultaneously on the Latin American scene: the return to democracy, structural adjustment, and the deceleration of urbanization rates. The urban studies agenda for the 1990s should take into account changes produced in the urban process by these three phenomena. It should consider especially the issues where their interplay is present.

Five broad issues emerged from the three subregional agendas. In this section, we will limit ourselves to a brief presentation of the selected themes. We advise reading the original papers in which the agendas were presented in detail.

Urbanization and Globalization

Given the importance of globalization and economic restructuring, and their impact on Latin America, it is necessary to study new trends and patterns in the urbanization process that are developing in conjunction with a more globalized economy. One must, however, differentiate between phenomena resulting from external factors and those that are part of ongoing national trends.

It is important to look at the consequences of the new international division of labor at both a continental and a national level. The restructuring of production, the opening of trade, and the increasing preference for external markets have territorial manifestations such as the spatial redistribution of industry and population, the rearticulation of economic relations among different regions, and the restructuring of city systems. These new international and regional economic conditions imply an increase in intraregional competition and at the national level, between cities. Traditional geographic boundaries within countries, regions, and cities have been altered as a result of new economic bonds. Redirection of international and national migration flows affects regional imbalances. All these trends need to be analyzed.

Urban Economic Structure

Latin American literature has given relatively little attention to the economic role of the city and its internal dynamics.

Given the new international and national scenarios, it is essential to study how cities function and grow. This is especially true since changes have been introduced in their economic organization, and structural adjustment has been imposed in the attempt to create conditions for sustained economic growth. Questions involving the principal changes occurring in industry, commerce, service, and the financial sector must be addressed. Reorganization of the labor market, marked by increasing informality, tertiarization, and changing technologies, should also be investigated.

Emphasis should also be given to those processes most directly related to the production of urban space. Cutbacks in public spending, especially on urban infrastructure and services, have affected cities' built environment in ways that have not yet been studied. The slow down and irregularity of investments generate urban degradation especially in those sectors remaining unattractive for private capital. It is also important to understand the private sector's increasing role in the urban economy and the operation of markets such as land and housing in the context of declining state intervention. Rental housing has become a central issue in most Latin-American cities and deserves consideration.

Another important issue to be considered is the so-called "productivity of the cities" in the context of structural adjustment. Among the questions relevant to future research in this area are those related to urban finance, funding for urban policies (basically those dealing with services and infrastructure), and the pressure of cities' expenditures on the national budget.

Urban Management and Local Government

In the 1980s, decentralization, municipalization, and the privatization of functions previously performed by the central government produced important changes at the local level in most Latin American countries. Local government became central in the decision making process, especially in terms of planning, regulation, investment, and urban administration.

With the strengthening of local governments and increasing citizen participation - trends occurring in the wake of political democratization in Latin America - research on urban management has become increasingly relevant. Investigations should consider the processes of decentralization and municipalization, emphasizing and evaluating the relationships between city management and citizen participation: local political processes like clientelism, interest groups, and the role of nongovernmental intermediaries are important areas of study.

ith structural adjustment, new aspects of urban management have emerged: cutbacks in public spending are leading to the privatization of public services and the market has become the chief mechanism of resource allocation. Future research initiatives will have to look at this new trend. Private management of urban and social services raises questions about the results of this process in terms of cost efficiency, quality of services, and costs to the cities.

Poverty, Inequality and Social Policies

Future studies of poverty should provide knowledge that can improve the formulation of social policies designed both to minimize short-term income deficiencies and to guarantee, in practice, the social rights of the poor population (equity).

There is a need to better understand the mechanics of poverty's production and reproduction. What factors affect the transmission of poverty from one generation to the next? What conditions enable some families to overcome poverty while others, in the same circumstances, cannot?

Poverty is multi-dimensional in nature and there is a need to identify criteria of internal differentiation within urban poverty. Investigations should indicate differential situations within the same target group, arising from such factors as the age and number of family members, the sex of the head of household, the education and qualification of family members and their insertion in the labor market, home ownership or rental, and the perception of nonmonetary income. Studies should also distinguish different situations of poverty arising from recent inclusion in that category of the "new poor" (pauperized wage earners working in the formal market and homeless families living in the streets). Research findings in this area would lead to improved definition of the structure and hierarchy of needs.

In the context of structural adjustment, it is important to evaluate social policies, examining their short-term and medium-term efficiency in minimizing the effects of poverty. Future research should also look at the linkages between social policies and urban management in the context of increasing municipalization and privatization of urban services (water provision, sewage systems and treatment, garbage collection, transportation, health services, and so on). To what extent have poor people's living conditions been improved and to what extent has urban social segregation diminished ?

Urban Social Structure

Latin American scholars have neglected global analyses of class structure and have paid very little attention to social plurality. However, it is recognized that very important changes are taking place in social stratification (processes of upward and downward mobility) and that the urban social structure deserves special attention.

Changes occurring in the demographic structure (gradual configuration of a new age pyramid), the economic structure (labor market fragmentation and the rise of new sectors related to new technologies), and the political structure (new political actors and new interest groups), all deserve consideration. They are clearly linked to urban processes.

Spatial segregation incorporates all such changes and is a theme to be more thoroughly explored. The study of the cultural values and social identity of different groups (youth, women, new grassroots organizations, ethnic groups, religious groups) should be stimulated in view of a better understanding of the social mosaique.

Fragmentation in cities has fomented new forms of sociability and collective organization such as spontaneous mutual-aid and networks of social support. The study of socialization spaces is a key element in the understanding of social integration processes and the overcoming of fragmentation and social inequality.

New bonding forces based on religion also deserve attention, given their capacity to congregate multiple social forces and mobilize expressive numbers of people.

The study of such processes should, however, be concomitant to a comprehensive analysis of the current social structure. This approach will help us to understand ongoing processes of social exclusion and the social geography of cities.

Urban Environment

The urban environment should be treated as an issue crosscutting the agenda as a whole. It is intimately linked to most of the topics that urban research in Latin America should cover, and cannot be seen as an independent issue. Rather, it becomes relevant in its relationship to the topics outlined above. Metropolitan areas have typical environmental problems: pollution, provision of drinking water, sewage disposal, treatment of industrial and domestic waste. Urban management has to deal increasingly with the environment and the quality of life. Urban poverty and antipoverty policies have definitely acquired an environmental dimension.

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Institutional Support

In order to implement an urban research agenda in the 1990s, it is essential to develop appropriate structures of institutional support. The minimum infrastructure necessary to permit further development and consolidation of the community of urban researchers requires:
  • regular funding for research
There is a need to ensure the availability of funding sources that can both guarantee the continuity of ongoing research activities and increase the opportunities for and quantity of new research initiatives.
  • further development and expansion of networks
This would involve support for the building of new national networks, the sustainable development of those in existence, and the expansion of Latin American networks.
  • greater dissemination of information and research results both inside and outside Latin America
This would involve expansion of the few existing channels of communication and, fundamentally, creation of a Latin American data base. The Latin American URBANDATA would centralize and disseminate bibliographic information as well as data on research centers, individual researchers, and ongoing research projects.

To ensure increasing communication among research centers and to strengthen the links between academic communities inside and outside the continent, electronic mail should be widely distributed.Given the infinitesimal acquaintance outside of Latin America with publications in Spanish and Portuguese, there is a need to promote more translation into English of relevant literature.

  • training programs with a view to increased capacitation
This would involve, in the first place, training a new generation of researchers capable of conducting research with modern techniques. Secondly, training courses for urban officials should be stimulated, permitting increased communication between academic investigators and local governmental agencies. Last but not least, a structure of permanent exchange of human resources among research centers should be encouraged, in order to stimulate comparative research and transfer of knowledge.

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Chart 1. Bibliographical References by Themes - Brazil*
Themes     Before       Fifties       Sixties      Seventies    Eighties
.          Fifties

1          10           23            44           222          297
2          4            12            9            18           87
3          5            8             16           57           46
4          19           41            52           501          319
5          6            12            29           177          227
6          1            0             4            92           219
7          1            7             15           161          246
8          0            0             2            13           66
9          2            1             1            21           70
10         2            2             2            21           47
11         4            2             2            31           117
12         4            1             3            34           75
13         10           10            32           248          467
14         0            0             0            26           31
15         1            6             13           55           72
16         6            7             12           169          318
17         0            0             0            66           297
18         1            0             1            18           89
19         7            11            14           73           209
20         0            1             2            14           61
21         2            0             0            4            35
TOTAL      85           144           253          1721         3395          5598
         (1.52 %)     (2.57 %)      (4.52 %)     (30.74 %)    (60.64 %)     (100 %)

Source: URBANDATA Database - IUPERJ, 1992.

* Each reference was classified into one or more thematic areas.

Consolidated Themes

1. Urbanization, Urban Growth and Migration / 4. Internal Structure of the City / 5. Economic Activities and the Labor Market / 7. Urban Planning: Theories and Practices / 13. Housing / 16. Urban Poverty / 19. Social Imagery and the Urban Way of Life

Emerging Themes

6. Urban Land Use / 8. Public Policies / 9. Local Government and Local Politics / 11. Urban Infrastructure and Services / 17. Social Movements / 18. Urban Violence / 20. Urban Environment and Quality of Life / 21. Other Themes: Alternative Practices within the Urban Environment / Historical Preservation / New Technologies

Stationary Themes

2. Historical Evolution of the City / 3. Urban Systems / 10. Public Finance and Administration / 12. Transport / 14. Construction Sector / 15. Urban Social Structure

Chart 2. Bibliographical References by Themes - Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru*
Themes                 Argentina  Bolivia     Chile     Ecuador    Peru      Average
                         %           %          %          %         %         %

Housing, popular
neighborhoods            11        7          15        14         25        14.4
Employment, poverty,     17        17         18        5          13        14.0
informal sector
 Social movements,       10        12         3         17         9         10.2
Urban services           9         8          18        7          6         9.6
Urbanization processes   8         5          9         10         9         8.2
Local government, urban
politics                 8         7          6         7          8         7.2
History and popular      5         11         2         9          8         7.0
identity, ethnicity
Urban planning           5         3          1         20         5         6.8
Women, youth, children   5         13         5         2          9         6.8
Urban studies            12        3          3         3          3         4.8
Migrations, demography   3         11         1         3          2         4.0
Environment              5         2          10        2          1         4.0
Social policies          2         0          9         0          0         2.2
Urban law                0         0          0         1          1         0.4
Media                    0         1          0         0          0         0.2
Urban economics,
industrialization        0         0          0         0          1         0.2
TOTAL:                   100       100        100       100        100       100

* Themes arising from the bibliographies (percentage for each country and average percentage) in the national reports.

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The bibliography that follows is but a selection of references included in the publication STREN, Richard (ed) Urban Research in the Developing World. Volume 3: Latin American. Centre for Urban and Community Studies, University of Toronto, 1995.

Besides some general references on Latin America we also list reviews of the Latin American literature.

ALONSO, Jorge (ed.).(1986). Los Movimientos Sociales en el Valle de México. v.1, México: Ediciones de la Casa Chata.

_____ (ed.).(1988). Los Movimientos Sociales en el Valle de México. v.11, México: Ediciones de la Casa Chata.

ALVARADO, Ivonne and ESTABA, Rosa M. (1985). Geografia de los Paisajes Urbanos e Industriales de Venezuela. Caracas: Ed. Ariel-Seix Barral Venezoelana.

ALVARADO, Luis et al.(1973). "Movilización Social en Torno al Problema de la Vivienda." EURE, v.III, Abril, no.7:37-70, Santiago.

ASSIES, B.; GURGWAL, G. and SALMAN, T.(1990). Structures of Power, Movements of Resistance. An Introduction to the Theories of Urban Movements in Latin America. Amsterdam: CEDLA, Latin American Studies, 55.

AZUELA, Antonio.(1989). La Ciudad, la Propiedad Privada y el Derecho. México: El Colegio de México.

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1. A first version of this paper was presented at the UNDP/United Nations meeting held in the Hague in 1993. The authors would like to thank Hilda Herzer and Vicente Espinoza for their valuable and thoughtful comments on the first draft of this paper.

2. GURI - Global Urban Research Initiative - is an international network which brings together thirteen research centers and institutes in the developing world. The project is coordinated by Richard Stren, director of the Center for Urban and Community Studies of the University of Toronto and is sponsored by the Ford Foundation. The first phase of the project addressed the question of the role of research in urban development and led to the representation of an urban research agenda for the 90s in different regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America. A concluding meeting of the first phase of the project was held in Cairo in 1993 where the three papers on Latin America were presented.

3. It is worth mentioning that the definition of medium-sized cities varies between countries. They may range between 25 to 600 thousand inhabitants.

4. The most important one took place in Quito in 1987 and was organized by CIUDAD. See bibliography part II - Reviews of the Latin American Literature.

5. Due to the bulk of the existent literature we have limited the number of quotations and may have omitted important references. As most research topics survived the decades in which they emerged, references and decades do not necessarily correspond. Papers by Rodriguez, Espinoza and Herzer (1995), Schteingart et al. (1995), and Valladares and Coelho (1995) provide a more comprehensive bibliography.

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About the authors

Licia Valladares

is Professor of Sociology at the Instituto Universitário de Pesquisas do Rio de Janeiro (IUPERJ) and co-ordinates the database URBANDATA. Her main fields of interest concern urban poverty and the urban labour market, housing and urban social movements. More recently she has conducted studies on child labour, philanthropy and relief in Brazil. Licia Valladares co-ordinates the GURI network in Brazil. She is also member of the Scientific Steering Committee of MOST.

Magda Prates Coelho

is a political scientist specialised in the fields of urban labour market, housing policies, urban social movements and urban violence in Rio de Janeiro. She is Executive Secretary of the Revista do Rio de Janeiro and engaged with the GURI network.

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