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Global Urbanization


If the United States has urbanized during the last two centuries, so has much of the rest of the world. Only 3 percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas in 1800. By a century later in 1900, 14 percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas, and twelve cities had populations over 1 million. Just a half-century later in 1950, the world’s urban population had doubled to 30 percent, and the number of cities over 1 million grew six times to eighty-three cities.

Today, more than half the world’s population lives in urban areas, and the number of cities over 1 million stands at more than four hundred. By 2030, almost two-thirds of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas. The number of megacities—cities with populations over 10 million—rose from three in 1975 to sixteen in 2000, and is expected to reach twenty-seven by 2025 (Population Reference Bureau, 2012). [7]

Despite all this growth, the degree of urbanization still varies around the world (see ). In general, wealthy nations are more urban than poor nations, thanks in large part to the latter’s rural economies. Still, urbanization in poor nations is proceeding rapidly. Most megacities are now in, and will continue to be in, nations that are relatively poor or desperately poor. The number of urban residents in these nations will increase greatly in the years ahead as people there move to urban areas and as their populations continue to grow through natural fertility. Fertility is a special problem in this regard for two reasons. First, women in poor nations have high fertility rates. Second, poor nations have very high proportions of young people, and these high rates mean that many births occur because of the large number of women in their childbearing years.

Figure 14.4 Percentage of World Population Living in Urban Areas

http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig14_004.jpg

Source: Adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Urban_population_in_2005_world_map.PNG.

Rapid urbanization poses both opportunities and challenges for poor nations. The opportunities are many. Jobs are more plentiful in cities than in rural areas and incomes are higher, and services such as health care and schooling are easier to deliver because people are living more closely together. In another advantage, women in poor nations generally fare better in cities than in rural areas in terms of education and employment possibilities (United Nations Population Fund, 2011). [8]



http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig14_x002.jpg

In large cities in poor nations, as this scene illustrates, many people live in deep poverty and lack clean water and sanitation.

BazaNews, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Delhi_Jama_Masjid_Street_Scene.jpg.
But there are also many challenges. In the large cities of poor nations, homeless children live in the streets as beggars, and many people lack necessities and conveniences that urban dwellers in industrial nations take for granted. As the United Nations Population Fund (2007) [9] warns, “One billion people live in urban slums, which are typically overcrowded, polluted and dangerous, and lack basic services such as clean water and sanitation.” The rapid urbanization of poor nations will compound the many problems these nations already have, just as the rapid urbanization in the industrial world more than a century ago led to the disease and other problems discussed earlier. As cities grow rapidly in poor nations, moreover, these nations’ poverty makes them ill equipped to meet the challenges of urbanization. Helping these nations meet the needs of their cities remains a major challenge for the world community in the years ahead. In this regard, the United Nations Population Fund (2007) [10] urges particular attention to housing: “Addressing the housing needs of the poor will be critical. A roof and an address in a habitable area are the first step to a better life. Improving access to basic social and health services, including reproductive health care, for poor people in urban slums is also critical to breaking the cycle of poverty.”

Life in the megacity of Mumbai (formerly called Bombay) in India illustrates many of the problems facing large cities in poor nations. Mumbai’s population exceeds 12.4 million, with another 8 million living in the greater metropolitan area; this total of more than 20 million ranks Mumbai’s metropolitan population as the fourth highest in the world. An author who grew up in Mumbai calls his city an “urban catastrophe.” He continued, “Bombay is the future of urban civilization on the planet. God help us” (Kotkin, 2011). [11] A recent news story illustrated his bleak assessment with this description of life in Mumbai: “The majority of Mumbai’s population now lives in slums, up from one-sixth in 1971—a statistic that reflects a lack of decent affordable housing, even for those gainfully employed. Congested, overcrowded, and polluted, Mumbai has become a difficult place to live. The life expectancy of a Mumbaikar is now seven years shorter than an average Indian’s, a remarkable statistic in a country still populated by poor villagers with little or no access to health care” (Kotkin, 2011). [12]




KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • US cities grew rapidly during the nineteenth century because of industrialization and immigration.

  • The United States is now a heavily urbanized society, whereas it was largely a rural society just a century ago.

  • Urbanization poses special challenges for poor nations, which are ill equipped to address the many problems associated with urbanization.



FOR YOUR REVIEW


  1. Write an essay in which you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of urbanization.

  2. If you had your preference, would you want to live in a large city, small city or town, or rural area? Explain your answer.

[1] Kleniewski, N., & Thomas, A. R. (2011). Cities, change, and conflict (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

[2] Gibson, C. (1998). Population of the 100 largest cities and other urban places in the United States: 1790–1990. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau.

[3] Feldberg, M. (1980). The turbulent era: Riot and disorder in Jacksonian America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

[4] Barkan, S. E., & Snowden, L. L. (2008). Collective violence. Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan.

[5] Steffens, L. (1904). The shame of the cities. New York, NY: McClure, Phillips.

[6] Riis, J. (1890). How the other half lives: Studies among the tenements of New York. New York. NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

[7] Population Reference Bureau. (2012). Human population: Urbanization. Retrieved fromhttp://www.prb.org/Educators/TeachersGuides/HumanPopulation/Urbanization.aspx.

[8] United Nations Population Fund. (2011). The State of World Population 2011. Retrieved from http://foweb.unfpa.org/SWP2011/reports/EN-SWOP2011-FINAL.pdf.

[9] United Nations Population Fund. (2007). Linking population, poverty, and development. Urbanization: A majority in cities. Retrieved fromhttp://www.unfpa.org/pds/urbanization.htm.

[10] United Nations Population Fund. (2007). Linking population, poverty, and development. Urbanization: A majority in cities. Retrieved fromhttp://www.unfpa.org/pds/urbanization.htm.

[11] Kotkin, J. (2011). A leg up: World’s largest cities no longer homes of upward mobility. Retrieved January 29, 2012, from http://www.newgeography.com/content/002051-a-leg-up-worlds-largest-cities-no-longer-homes-upward-mobility.

[12] Kotkin, J. (2011). A leg up: World’s largest cities no longer homes of upward mobility. Retrieved January 29, 2012, from http://www.newgeography.com/content/002051-a-leg-up-worlds-largest-cities-no-longer-homes-upward-mobility.


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