Since more than half of Latin America's 175 million poor now live in cities, poverty alleviation programs there must shift their traditional rural focus to urban settings. World Bank staff and consultants here provide a comprehensive compilation of what we know -- and do not know -- about the conditions and causes of urban poverty, along with a plethora of policy initiatives that can help. Topics surveyed include urban labor markets, housing and related infrastructure, poor-on-poor crime and violence, public health services, social networks, safety nets, and "assets" such as human capital, homeownership, and microfinance. The authors leave the setting of priorities to individual governments while calling for more research on the relative efficiency of promising interventions. Among the many reported success stories, one stands out in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: in Cuba, the government's high degree of preparedness has enabled poor communities to withstand a number of devastating storms with minimal losses.
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