Type in urban poverty trends into Google Scholar and top of the list is a paper that I co-authored, published in World Development in 1999. Not very encouraging. If you scan the World Bank and DFID web sites for urban work there is not much.
The one thing I did find is a powerpoint from 2009 by Judy Baker of the World Bank, presenting numbers (although where they come from I don't know) on the urban share of total poor (less than $2.15 a day 1993-2002) which show the numbers increasing for Latin America (no surprise), but also for South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In the latter region the share of poverty in urban areas rises from 24% in 1993 to 31% in 2002--nearly one ppt per year.
For India we have a paper by Datt and Ravallion from 2010 which shows the share of India's poor living in urban areas rising from 25% in 1985 to 35% in 2005 or 0.5 ppt a year. So why no major emphasis on urban poverty in the development agencies (or research organisations?). Is it because:
- urban poverty and rural poverty are so similar in nature? (they are similar in many ways but some key differences revolve around environmental externalities due to population density, violence, and fragile tenure)
- the policies and programmes needed to reduce urban poverty are similar to rural poverty? (again, some are, but some --such as municipal public goods provision--need to be very attuned to urban contexts)
- there is now a rural bias? (Michael Lipton, a guru, will not like me saying it, but have we gotten lazy about assuming urban bias still prevails-those who shout loudest are in urban areas near policymakers and they get their needs met first)
- all the 40 and 50 year old development professionals were taught to understand rural poverty and not urban poverty? (I think there is something to this--I have fond memories of Bruce Johnston's Integrated Rural Development)
- the data on urban poverty are so weak and non-existent? (they are pretty poor--just check out these World Bank data pages)
- of path dependency? (yep, its so easy to keep on doing what we are doing).