The social disparities existing in central urban areas have a cumulative effect; underemployment and unemployment increase the inequalities and mean that the already under-privileged fall still further behind. Inter-related negative factors begin to operate and they often lead to alienation and violence with, as a consequence, the exodus of those who can afford to leave and their replacement by new arrivals fascinated by the big city. Decaying buildings with no settled occupants become haunts of crime, drug use, violence and fear. As businesses, good schools, and educated people leave, city centre's have the poor, uneducated, undesirable minorities and sick. Housing deteriorates. Schools become less capable of educating as violence increases, funds decrease and the best staff leave. Teachers see themselves as baby sitters or policemen. Social services deteriorate; medical services become more centralized into public hospitals and private practices move to better neighbourhoods; unemployment and welfare agencies become part of the means of oppression; and police services shift emphasis from prevention to restricting crime to defined geographical areas. Private housing becomes substandard as returns on investment drop below zero. Arson for the sake of insurance claims is the most profitable way of recovering investments from property. Residents see no need to maintain rental property as any improvement will not be paid for by the owner and is likely to attract criminals. Public housing is often the location of high rates of crime: women are raped in elevators and drugs pushed in hallways. Access to the political processes becomes more difficult until indifference sets in for the voting population and corruption and cynicism become mechanisms for survival for politicians. The private sector invests less and less. Jobs move further and further away. Transportation is by old junk cars for those who can afford them, luxury automobiles for the criminal and increasingly bad public services for the poor. Shopping for necessities means either paying higher prices for lower quality goods or travelling to distant and frequently alien centres. Criminal investments increase with gambling, prostitution and drugs. The self image of residents and employers becomes either one of a victim of circumstance or one of an outlaw. The absence of controls governing land use is unfortunate in the city centres of many market-economy countries where, in most cases, the incremental value of land flowing from community growth is not made available to the community to finance its further development, but is largely accrued to land speculators.
Among the most serious environmental problems in cities are air and water pollution, solid waste accumulation and disposal (including toxic and hazardous wastes), and noise. Many cities are also at risk from natural hazards or hazards whose origin may be natural but where human actions have significantly increased the level of risk.