International Development Planning Review

From slum to ghetto: Social deprivation in Kingston, Jamaica

International Development Planning Review (2006), 28, (1), 1–34.

Abstract

Massive population growth in the cities of the developing world since 1950 has given rise to high-density, inner-city slums and, since the 1960s, to the expansion of informal, usually squatted, settlements on the periphery of the original built-up area. The experience of Kingston, Jamaica, has been at odds with this generalisation, largely because of the absence of massive squatter developments, and the concentration of population in rental accommodation or in makeshift housing located on rented land near the city centre. As early as the late 1930s, the West India Royal Commission commented adversely on poor-quality housing and dense populations in Kingston, associated with multi-occupied tenements and rent yards. This paper traces the evolution of the rented, late colonial slum into the post-independence (1962) Kingston ghetto. The change in nomenclature is associated with the violence of the ghetto since political competition became endemic in the 1970s: in short, the slum (by analogy with the US urban ghettos) became a no-go area. Nevertheless, the ghetto can still be defined, using 1991 census materials, on the basis of essentially the same conditions as those revealed by the 1960 census. At both dates multiple deprivation was conditioned by low-class status, black race, and by high and persistent rates of rental and unemployment. Kingston's experience of slum/ghetto conditions is compared with evidence from Africa and Latin America.

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Clarke, Colin