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Many thousands of families remain at the bottom of the social hierarchy, living in the most rudimentary and basic conditions. Image: Andersson Barbosa

cities & citizens series - bridging the urban divide

were replaced by sugar cane.33 São Paulo’s population growth in its early years illustrates the city’s ability to attract and absorb successive influxes of both foreign and domestic migrants. Today’s urbanization clearly had its origins in the 19th century and, in terms of population growth, reached its apogee in the 1960s. Over the last 100 years, the population of the municipality of São Paulo has multiplied approximately 50 times, from 240,000 in 1900 to 10,900,000 in 2009. This represents a 5 per cent average increase per year, or an approximate doubling every two decades. Population growth rates have declined significantly over the last three decades.

The intensive industrial city dynamic Between 1890 and 1940, São Paulo municipality was characterized by an increasingly dense concentration of people and resources and growing social heterogeneity; it became

Over the last 100 years, the population of the municipality of São Paulo has multiplied approximately 50 times... a ‘concentrated city’.34 The rapid population growth was not matched by commensurate urban expansion. In contrast to the situation today, home ownership was not an option for workers, who mostly lived in cortiços or casas de comodo (boarding houses); neither

was home ownership an option for the middle class, who mainly rented their residences. While the elite and, to a lesser extent, the middle classes lived in independent villas, an estimated 80 per cent of São Paulo’s houses were rented out, in contrast to today, where an average 80 to 90 per cent of people in vulnerable and non-vulnerable areas are homeowners.35 Brazil’s major industrial growth started as early as the 1930s and created a high demand for labour that was readily supplied by incoming migrants. In order to accommodate the rapid migration, residences were built close to the factories that were outside the central areas of São Paulo. A limited but noticeable appearance of peripheral squatter settlements also began in the 1930s. There were no apartment buildings, and landlords made lucrative earnings cramming whole families into single rooms in multi-room individual houses, all sharing what meagre water or sanitation facilities existed. As the centre of São Paulo became more concentrated with migrant workers, it became increasingly unattractive to the elite and urban planners, who felt unable to open avenues, widen streets and reorganize downtown areas. Fearing disease and contamination, and following the natural growth of the city, the wealthy started to move out of the city centre and into newly developed neighbourhoods, subject to planning, urbanized services and the de facto exclusion of the poor. As they developed and resided in more exclusive areas outside of the centre, the centre itself became more specialized as a place of commerce and services.

Profile for UN-Habitat

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Profile for unhabitat
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