Newly released census data shows families living in slums have a far better child sex ratio than the urban Indian average. Over a third of India’s slum dwellers live in unrecognised slums.

Over 65 million people live in slums, up from 52 million in 2001, but slum populations have grown slower than the average urban population over the last decade. The average household living in a slum is no larger than an average urban Indian household, with 4.7 family members. The child sex ratio (0-6 years) of an average slum household is 922 girls for every 1,000 boys, compared to 905 for urban India.

Scheduled Castes (SCs) are over-represented in slums, with 1 out of every five slums residents belonging to SC, compared to just over one out of 10 for urban India as a whole. The proportion of SCs living in slums has risen over the last decade. Scheduled Castes in slums have far better sex ratios than other urban communities.

The literacy rate in slums is now up to 77.7% but still lags behind the urban average. Both men and women living in slums participate at a higher rate in the workforce than the urban average, even though fewer have employment through the year.

The census defines a slum as “residential areas where dwellings are unfit for human habitation” because they are dilapidated, cramped, poorly ventilated, unclean, or “any combination of these factors which are detrimental to the safety and health” and covers all 4,041 statutory towns in India.

For the latest round, the census designated slums in three different ways — notified, recognised and identified. While the first two are designated as slums by some official authority, identified slums do not have legal status as a slum, but must consist of at least 60-70 tenements with at least 300 people.

The data shows that of the three types, identified slums have the largest sub-set of slum population, indicating that over a third of India’s official slum population does not have official status as a slum, or access to legal protection and municipal services.

With over 11 million of its residents in slums, Maharashtra has the highest slum population; 4.6 million of them in ‘identified’ slums. Andhra Pradesh follows with over 10 million in slums, and West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have over 6 million slum residents each. Over 1 million of Delhi’s 1.7 million slum residents live in ‘identified’ slums.

These families have a far better child sex ratio than the urban Indian average