A Comparison of Economic and Social Implications of Rapid Urbanization in Lima and Santiago de Chile

In: Perspectives on Global Development and Technology
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  • 1 Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
  • 2 Mercer University

Peru and Chile have experienced an economic boom in recent decades that has transformed the urban form of their respective capital cities of Lima and Santiago. According to United Nations data, Lima and Santiago numbered just over one million inhabitants each in 1950. From 1950 to 2010 Lima’s population grew 740 percent and Santiago 351 percent, to 8.95 million inhabitants in Lima and 5.96 million in Santiago, part of a corresponding migration from rural to urban areas throughout Latin America. In this period, the urban form of each city was modified to accommodate growth.

Urban development has been typified by densification of the core, agricultural land conversion, and a rise in informal settlements (barriadas or pueblos jóvenes in Lima and callampas in Santiago). In both Lima and Santiago, fragmented, polycentric growth has had transformative effects.

The paper compares social, economic, and urban form indicators of urban sub-units in each city to understand the spatial and social connotations of growth and centrality in two South American cities. Given the largely unimpeded growth and resultant urban form, is decentralization a means for increasing access to amenities and citizen participation or is the lack of regional planning detrimental to vulnerable populations?

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