Urbanization and poverty reduction: The role of rural diversification and secondary towns

Luc Christiaensen*, Joachim De Weerdt, Yasuyuki Todo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


A rather unique panel tracking more than 3,300 individuals from households in rural Kagera, Tanzania, during 1991/1994-2010 shows that about one out of two individuals/households who exited poverty did so by transitioning out of agriculture into the rural nonfarm economy or secondary towns. Only one out of seven exited poverty by migrating to the big cities, even though those moving to the city experienced on average faster consumption growth. Further analysis of a much larger cross-country panel of 51 developing countries cannot reject that rural diversification and secondary town development lead to more inclusive growth patterns than metropolitization. Indications are that this follows because more of the poor find their way to the rural nonfarm economy and secondary towns, than to distant cities. The development discourse would benefit from shifting beyond the rural-urban dichotomy and focusing more instead on how best to urbanize and develop its rural nonfarm economy and secondary towns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-447
Number of pages13
JournalAgricultural Economics (United Kingdom)
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jul
Externally publishedYes


  • Poverty
  • Rural nonfarm economy
  • Rural-urban transformation
  • Structural transformation
  • Urban concentration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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