Adequate housing is thought to provide a number of benefits, including greater satisfaction with one’s quality of life, better mental and physical health, protection against extreme weather, and improved safety and defense against crime. Researchers measured the impact of improving the quality of slum housing on household wellbeing in El Salvador, Mexico, and Uruguay, with IPA implementing the evaluation in Mexico. Residents were selected to receive housing upgrades by lottery. Results showed that slum upgrading significantly improved satisfaction with quality of life. In two countries positive and significant effects were detected in child health. In El Salvador, significant and positive effects were observed in the perception of safety. Finally, no effects were detected in labor market variables and in the accumulation of durable goods.
The United Nations estimates that nearly one billion people, primarily in the developing world, live in urban slums and lack proper housing. Slum houses are typically made of waste materials such as cardboard, tin, and plastic, have dirt floors, and lack connections to basic services such as water and sewer systems. Adequate housing is thought to provide a number of benefits, including better mental and physical health, protection against extreme weather, and improved safety and defense against crime. Improved safety and security may, in turn, allow households to accumulate assets and free up time for productive activities that would otherwise be devoted to protecting these assets. Better housing can also affect individuals’ sense of dignity and satisfaction with their quality of life, which may complement improvements in other dimensions. One way to address the challenge of inadequate housing is to upgrade slum dwellings with inexpensive yet durable materials such as concrete floors or tin roofs. Despite the widely held belief that housing has an important role to play in improving health and welfare, there is little rigorous evidence about how housing improvement programs can affect the welfare of participants.