An Analysis on the Role of Socioeconomic Factors in the Formation and Expansion of Informal Settlements of Mashhad Metropolis

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Professor of Geography and Urban Planning, Tabriz University, Tabriz, Iran

2 Assistant Professor of Geography, Ferdowsi University, Mashhad, Iran

3 PhD in Geography and Urban Planning, Tabriz University, Tabriz, Iran


Informal settlement involves a variety of meanings dependent on the geographical situation, how to capture the land and the legal, physical, administrative and economic dimensions. It refers to a specific term in any political system and human societies. But the most appropriate definition of informal settlements is more adapted to the context of informal settlements of Mashhad. As defined by the Supreme Council of Architecture and Urban Development of Iran: The informal settlements are the tissues that are located mostly on the edge of cities and metropolises and formed outside the formal development plan. Residents of these tissues are low-income groups and rural immigrants. These tissues do not have safety, strength, social security, services and urban infrastructure. The Mashhad metropolis is one of the most prominent centers of informal settlements in the country which make up 33% of the population of Mashhad as marginalized. The population of these settlements in 2014 reached 1183 thousand inhabited in the region, 3894 hectares in area, within the urban development and outside the service area of Mashhad. This demographic and its consequences shows the necessity of attention, identifying the causes and factors of the formation and expansion of this problem, and ultimately necessity of effective planning in Mashhad metropolis.
In this article, we have selected two categories of factors for the formation and expansion of informal settlements, namely economic and socio-cultural factors. Their components and variables have been determined by reviewing theoretical foundations and interviewing experts and then it is determined how effective these factors are in this research through a survey of experts. The degree of importance of each of the factors and variables will also be obtained by completing the questionnaire by the residents of the informal housing areas.
This research is applied and the research methodology is descriptive-analytical. The data collection tool is library documents and survey. A quantitative research approach is based on the use of SPSS for statistical analysis and VENSIM for drawing causal and disability diagrams. Questionnaires are completed in two different communities of related experts and residents of informal settlements in Mashhad. The number of questionnaires for the first community was 55, which was completed several times by Delphi method. The number of questionnaires for the second population was calculated based on Cochran's formula with 384 questionnaires. The reliability coefficient in the questionnaire of the residents of informal settlements was 0.909 and 0.882 in the expert answers, as a good reliability.
Results and discussion 
Due to the large number of factors involved in creating informal settlements at different levels, there should be a comprehensive approach to all of these factors. Using systemic thinking, people gain a better understanding of the world by viewing patterns that change over time, not seeing them as unique events. If we have the ability to view the whole system image with its details, it will be determined by the cause of the conflict of activities, the relationships between them, and patterns of results. Therefore, all the factors found in various studies are used in this research. By summarizing theoretical foundations and applying the comprehensive consideration of all factors, these factors are divided into 5 subsystems: macro, managerial, economic, social and physical-environmental indicators that in this research, two economic and socio-cultural factors are investigated.
Economic factors have 10 variables including drought and economic downturn, easy creation of early employment, low land prices, low housing prices, inflation, and housing rental, and low income, job opportunities, rising living costs, unemployment and stagnation in surrounding cities.
Social factors have 12 variables that include immigration, cultural convergence of migrants, and rapid population growth. The variables are including religious attraction of Mashhad, the rate of illiteracy, the increase in the number of children and the need for more space, the need for security and safety along with the relatives, lifestyle changes, social inequality, change in sex ratio, and increase in household size and burden.
The results of the tests indicated that the economic factor had more effect on the formation and expansion of informal settlement of Mashhad. The most important variables are poverty and low income, drought and agricultural recession and unemployment. It can be said that the inhabitants and experts are equally concerned about this and it's just the difference in the more comprehensive view of the experts that the drought and agricultural recession are considered to be the most effective factor. In summarizing the views of residents and experts, one can find out the most effective variables of the social factor: migration, rapid population growth and religious attraction in Mashhad. According to the impact of variables, we can draw the diagram of the socio-economic system of the extension of informal settlement of Mashhad as well as their causal and non-functional relationships. One-way and two-way relationships are formed between the variables that generate cycles. Strong cycles belong to economic variables that perform like primary causes, the reason for this is the decision to migrate and pass from the hometown and take off from the ancestral soil, especially for the villagers. The result is an intra-urban and sub-urban migration cycle that migration from outside the cities plays a more significant role in the formation of informal settlements.
According to the final diagram, the direction and purpose of the strategies and suggestions should be aimed at weakening the effective cycle of expanding informal settlements of these cycles to be more strategic state in both the regional and national levels. These conditions can present ways to weaken or defeat these cycles including strengthening agriculture in the cities around Mashhad, strengthening small towns on the regional level and strengthening neighboring cities, housing for low-income groups, controlling inflation at the national level, formalizing land ownership in these areas, and social empowerment of these residents at the local level.


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Volume 51, Issue 2
July 2019
Pages 373-385
  • Receive Date: 02 April 2017
  • Revise Date: 04 November 2017
  • Accept Date: 04 November 2017
  • First Publish Date: 04 November 2017