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You were born in the slum little boy,
And you'll die in the slum little boy.
You were born in the slum and you'll never see the sun
you'll be there 'till kingdom come little boy

(from) Mary and Me Eric Bogle

Basic Information

A slum is, generally speaking, any urban area where housing conditions are noticeably poor by the standards of the city to which it belongs (and it will usually be a city, although a town may have an attempted slum and a village a Dogpatch, it generally takes a city to form a proper slum). Such housing may be merely obsolete (as was - and sometimes remains - the case in many developed world slums), lacking modern amenities but may be illegally constructed and even illegally sited. Slums are also traditionally overcrowded, although again they need not be and cultural issues of what constitutes overcrowding can apply (given that in medieval times even the aristocracy could be found living in levels of overcrowding that would have a dog calling social services in the modern era).

Slums are traditionally occupied by the poorest members (or, it must be said, non-members) of their society, and mixing that with the (often literally) lousy housing conditions makes them places of poor health and misery. They are also traditionally associated with crime - although this can be unfair as many historical slums have been the homes of poor but honest working people - but deprivation, especially when coupled with idleness tend to be criminogenic and street gangs and organized crime are often significant presences in slums. In some slums the criminality may be general, in others the criminals may direct their attentions outwards and take advantage of a sense of solidarity with their neighbours to create a refuge for themselves in the slum. Also, those who clearly posses anything worth stealing may be well advised to proceed with extreme caution if they must enter at all. For those able to navigate them, on the other hand, slums may be good places to contact the black and grey economies and generally deal with all sorts of illicit and subversive elements. Of course, the residents may also be preyed upon by outsiders - besides the probability of exploitation by their employers, there is also the likelihood of slum landlords to contend with and the predations of loan sharks given their probable lack of access to legal credit.

Depending on time, place and culture slums may be ethnically tiered - by caste, nationality, race or species - or may be equal-opportunity crapholes (even if the rest of the city has very different demographics). Speaking of which a ghetto is not necessarily a slum - it may indeed be, but doesn't have to.

Subtypes of slum include:

Specific named slums


1. full source reference

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