A new study by researchers at the Yale School of the Environment (YSE) focuses on infrastructure in India and South Africa to find that infrastructure inequalities are ingrained in the urbanization process.
Growing up in Delhi, India, Bhartendu Pandey ’21 PhD walked miles in his urban neighborhood to get fresh water for his family. The trek took time away from his studies and other activities — a sacrifice that young people in nearby communities with potable water didn’t have to make. This is the type of infrastructure inequality within regions and communities that is the focus of the new PNAS study led by Pandey. It is one of the first studies that explicitly looks at unequal access to infrastructure as opposed to unequal levels of income.
YSE’s professor Karen Seto, who co-author of the study, says preferential treatment of infrastructure by policy makers is built into policies that then lock in social inequalities. Neighborhoods that are well lit with good drainage, for example, will attract families that can afford to live there while other lower-income families are forced to live in communities lacking infrastructure services where housing costs are cheaper. “These different types of inequalities reinforce each other,” Seto says.