I just finished reading a fascinating paper on the social impact of urban street paving in Mexico by Marco Gonzalez and Climent Quintana. A previous version of this paper had been presented at the Impact conference in Cuernavaca back in June 2011.
It turns out that street paving – mostly with cement – has a significant impact on property values (+43%), land values (+54%) and increases the use of collateralized credit through which home owners can purchase durable goods, vehicles and improve their homes. And housing is the most valuable asset that poor urban households have.
A few years back, Cattaneo, Galiani, Gertler and Martinez estimated that replacing dirt floors with cement resulted in reductions in parasitic infestations (78%), diarrhea (49%), and anemia (81%) and improvements in cognitive development in young children (36% to 96%).
So if your street is paved, your main asset can increase by more than 50% and if you replace your dirt floor with cement, your children will live better.
Cement is good.