Global Urbanization

Global Urbanization

Global Urbanization

Global Urbanization


For the first time in history, the majority of the world's population lives in urban areas. Much of this urbanization has been fueled by the rapidly growing cities of the developing world, exemplified most dramatically by booming megacities such as Lagos, Karachi, and Mumbai. In the coming years, as both the number and scale of cities continue to increase, the most important matters of social policy and economic development will necessarily be urban issues. Urbanization, across the world but especially in Asia and Africa, is perhaps the critical issue of the twenty-first century.

Global Urbanization surveys essential dimensions of this growth and begins to formulate a global urban agenda for the next half century. Drawing from many disciplines, the contributors tackle issues ranging from how cities can keep up with fast-growing housing needs to the possibilities for public-private partnerships in urban governance. Several essays address the role that cutting-edge technologies such as GIS software, remote sensing, and predictive growth models can play in tracking and forecasting urban growth. Reflecting the central importance of the Global South to twenty-first-century urbanism, the volume includes case studies and examples from China, India, Uganda, Kenya, and Brazil.

While the challenges posed by large-scale urbanization are immense, the future of human development requires that we find ways to promote socially inclusive growth, environmental sustainability, and resilient infrastructure. The timely and relevant scholarship assembled in Global Urbanization will be of great interest to scholars and policymakers in demography, geography, urban studies, and international development.


In 2010, a majority of the world’s population lived in cities, an important milestone actually reached in 2008; by 2050, this proportion will approach 70 percent. These simple facts point in two directions: looking back, they confirm the intensity with which the world has urbanized over the past fifty years and, moving forward, they mark the world’s cities as the central terrain on which the critical issues of human development will play out over the course of the twenty-first century. This chapter explores the implications of these facts and frames them within broad societal goals of achieving socially inclusive economic growth, environmental sustainability and disaster-resistant resilience in the world’s cities and metropolitan regions. Further, it lays a foundation for probing urbanization more deeply through emerging research methods that uncover better understandings of urban growth and development, the subject of this book.

According to UN demographers, past and future world urban growth rates are higher than those for the overall population. They estimate that between 2009 and 2050, the global urban population rate (100 percent) will dwarf the total population rate (44 percent). This prediction generally holds for individual regions, regardless of the level of development. However, the Global South (121 percent urban, 54 percent overall) will surpass the Global North (22 percent urban, 8 percent overall) with Africa showing the greatest change (167 percent urban, 122 percent overall) followed by Asia (119 percent urban, 33 percent overall).

Rates of urbanization vary not only between more and less developed countries but among regions of the Global South due to wide differences in the current size and distribution of population. Latin America and the Caribbean, for instance, have much smaller populations than . . .

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