Poverty in the rural areas has been attributed to the urban bias as attributed by Michael Lipton considering the fact that urban bias has resulted in the uneven distribution of national resources this has caused poor agricultural and infrastructural reforms in the rural areas.

Urban bias has amounted to rural to urban migration that causes rural areas to continue to be poor whereas agricultural produce from rural areas fetches little on the urban markets.

Urban bias results in distinctly anti-rural policies in many developing countries that perpetuate rural poverty, however, it is an injustice to primarily dwell on the notion that urban bias is the main cause of poverty as many governments have actively supported agricultural producers and rural citizens, thereby improving standards of living.

The urban bias theory seems to forget that technical changes such as the green revolution may bring about the prosperity of rural areas more than urban areas whereas unemployment and income gaps also fuel rural poverty.

To commence with urban bias refers to a theory in which economic development is hindered by groups who, by their location in urban areas and cities are able to pressure governments to protect their interests at the expense of rural areas.

The growth of urban bias led to distorted sectorial development in world economies as the isolation of large segments of the rural population from the fruits of economic development and economic growth due to the high costs of urban development. Political, labor unions, students, laws, civil servants, and manufacturers are often said to have an urban bias and discriminate against rural areas.

These interests are portrayed as often not reflecting the comparative economic advantage of the country, usually a less industrialized country whose comparative advantage is considered to be export agriculture. The urban bias theory posits that the development process in the third world is systematically biased against the countryside and the bias is embedded in the political structure dominated by the urban groups (Ades and Glaeser, 1995).

In other words, the rural areas are poor because they are politically powerless therefore in this regard it shows that urban bias led directly to rural poverty.

To add on the theory of urban bias has been blamed for causing acute poverty levels in the rural areas judging on the grounds that because of urban bias and the common misconception that rural areas are not worth investing in. There has been unequal distribution of national resources between the rural and urban areas.

For instance, public investment allocation for infrastructural development has been favoring major towns and cities with the building of supporting infrastructures such as roads, rail, and dam construction (Varshney,1994).

Whereas there are little funds that are poured for the investments of public works in the rural areas and as a result, rural areas become so isolated from the urban setup hence this causes the lack of basic goods and necessities to reach remote areas therefore in this regard one may view the notion of urban bias as contributing towards low infrastructural development in the rural areas and causing poverty.

In addition, the unfair allocation of national resources as a result of urban bias has led to major industrialization of the urban areas at the expense of the rural areas that remain underdeveloped and lacking industrialized structures.

This basically perpetuates poverty for the rural livelihoods as industrialization brings about employment opportunities and the provision of better goods and services to improve standards of living however these trends are only present in the industrialized urban area. Governments in the developing world extract revenues from rural cash crop farmers in order to finance urban industrialization projects thereby leaving the rural population with poverty hence the assertion that urban bias has been the main factor causing poverty in the rural areas is justified in this case.

Moreover, urban bias has been traced as the main cause of rural poverty and this can be traced against the backdrop that rural agricultural products fetch little prices on the urban markets whereas as if this was not enough most developing countries favors the economic policies associated with import substitution a system of replacing foreign trade with domestic production.

Import substitution is based on the premise that a country should attempt to reduce its foreign dependency through the local production of industrialized products, African urban bias is often likened to Latin American experiences with import substitution strategies and welfare state development which were often implemented at the expense of the rural poor (Collier and Collier, 1991).

However, import substitution perpetuates poverty for the rural agrarian communities that depend on the export markets to sell their agricultural produce at higher prices hence import substitution strategies hurt farmers at the expense of manufacturing interests and urban workers hence it is arguably true to contend that the urban bias largely causes poverty in rural areas.

To add on the majority of governments in the developing world have been criticized for favoring the development and growth of urbanization at the expense of rural and communal agrarian communities and in some instances, rural farming lands have been seized for the sole purposes of town enlargement and urbanization this has been traced as a major backdrop that causes poverty in the rural areas.

(Lipton, 2005) contends that improving agricultural productivity and correcting market failures in agriculture is generally considered an important stepping stone for long-term economic development and the reduction of rural poverty.

Government intervention is needed to overcome market failures and foster investment in agriculture (Binswanger and Deininger, 1997). Policies that favor urban production and urbanization exacerbate failures of agricultural markets and are a crucial hindrance to generating sustained growth in a country thereby causing poverty for the rural people.

In a seminal study Bates (Bates, 1981) argues that Africa’s failed agricultural policy is in part caused by adverse incentives for national political leaders. He documents for cases in sub-Sahara Africa that agricultural policy throughout the post-World War II era was heavily biased against rural development.

Producers of exportable cash crops were forced to sell their product at low prices to national marketing boards which in turn generated substantial profits on international markets whereas the generated revenue was then used to provide public goods and to control inflation in urban centers, fuel industrialization projects, and finance networks of political patronages.

Rural areas were disadvantaged in terms of stunted growth and reduced investment, lower public goods provision, and political repression hence this critically shows us that urban bias has been the major cause of rural poverty as evidenced above.

Moreover, the notion of urban bias as a major cause of poverty can be quite evident especially when we are to consider rural-urban migration. Rural to urban migration is the movement of people from the countryside to city areas mainly of young males and the economically active into the major cities. The major reason for this movement can be urban bias in the major cities and towns and the common misconception that employment opportunities are only available in urban areas. Hence such a type of movement results in the lack of development in the rural areas as most of the economically active population transfer their workmanship towards the major cities (Myrdal, 1958).

Thereby leaving behind the inactive population such as the elderly women and children hence in such a situation where there is rampant rural urban migration there is no way the rural people may develop their communities and standards of living hence one forced to agree with the fact that urban bias has been the major stumbling block in as far as uplifting the livelihoods of rural people.

To add on urban bias has been the dominant factor causing rural poverty considering the fact that urban bias results in distinctly anti-rural development policies in many countries. In most accounts, urban bias implies the transfer of economic resources from the countryside to urban centers, economic regulations that inhibit investment and growth in the rural sector, price controls, and political repression. (Lipton,1977)

Hence urban bias is a combination of inefficient and inequitable transfer of resources to urban areas, paired with the support of the political elite henceforth this all in all results in abject poverty for the people that are left in the rural areas.

However on the other hand it should be considered that urban bias does not necessarily cause rural poverty considering the fact that Governments in some developing countries have been seen as favoring policies that ensure rural development at the expense of urban areas. Taiwan and South Korea implemented sweeping land reforms that favor agricultural production for the communal and rural people whereas Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand engaged in decidedly pro rural policies investing considerable resources into public health and education projects benefiting rural areas. (Danguilan 1999; McGuire, 2001)

While repressing urban labor movements. Indonesia is well known for its generous support of rice farmers in the rural areas despite the characteristic difficulty of organizing collective action among farmers (Simatupang and Timmer, 2008). Not only did conservative rulers in Asia direct economic resources to the countryside but also groomed in the long-run rural residents as a conservative voting base to counterbalance the influence of urban groups hence this serves to show us that in some instances rural poverty is caused by other independent factors even if resources are being channeled for rural development.

In addition, rural citizens are not completely powerless as had been previously suggested by Lipton 1997 .the experience of East and South East Asia suggests that the threat of a rural insurgency was one of the main reasons for governments to initiate rural development programs (Muscat, 1990).

The power of rural insurgencies has also been documented in recent scholarship on civil wars. Civil wars often start in rural areas, far away from the capital and urban centers even if peasants do not engage in political violence directly, insurgents depend crucially on the support of the local population to sustain an insurgency campaign.

Quantitative work has also shown the importance of rural and difficult terrain for the outbreak and length of civil wars hence this shows that urban bias alone cannot be blamed for causing rural poverty

Furthermore, then urban bias theory fails to note that technical changes such as the green revolution that will in time lead to the successful growth of the rural areas and cause them to be more prosperous than the urban areas whereas the urban bias theory also fails to perceive the fact that rural poverty may be caused by external factors such as changing climatic conditions and natural disasters that may impact on agricultural land and crops thereby perpetuating hunger and starvation in the rural areas (Kay,2002).

Moreover, it has been noted that corruption has been blamed as causing rural poverty considering the fact that poverty levels in some states where state governors and rural development officers were found to be guilty of misusing and converting public funds into private use thereby leaving the rural areas underdeveloped and in poverty. This suggests that if stolen resources were deployed to address the various poverty challenges in rural areas the poverty rates should have declined below their present levels therefore in this regard it is not true to blame urban bias alone as the main cause of rural poverty as there are also other independent factors.

To add on the urban bias theory also fails to note that unemployment and low-income levels can also cause rural poverty in the rural areas. Unemployment and poverty are the two major challenges that are facing rural economies in the developing world considering the fact that higher-income status generally results in more control and discretion over basic needs.

Higher wages result in an increased ability to cover the costs of not only basic needs but also items of higher quality and non-basic items such as higher education, specialized healthcare therefore unemployment and low-income levels within rural communities lead to financial crisis and reduces the overall purchasing capacity of people.

This in turn results in poverty followed by an increasing burden of debt for the rural people whereas values and traditions that discourage social and economic mobility, innovation, and entrepreneurship can also constitute a causal factor of rural underdevelopment (McLaughlin, 1986). Hence one can say unemployment and low-income levels in the rural areas have been one of the causes of poverty.

Conclusively urban bias has been the main factor that causes rural poverty considering the fact that there is an unfair distribution of projects between the urban and rural people as urban projects are more funded. There is the transfer of rural wealth so that it can be used to fund urban development programs whereas import substitution is an injustice to the exporting rural agrarian economies that depend on the export market for survival.

Whereas on the other hand it is not true to say that urban bias is the main cause of poverty in the rural areas as in some instance governments also fund rural development programs, and external factors such as the geographic location of rural areas and local climatic factors may cause the rural areas to become poor.


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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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