World Is Soon Half Urban

The United Nations projects that sometime in 2008 more people will live in cities than in rural areas.1 Over the past half-century, the world’s urban population has increased nearly fourfold, from 732 million in 1950 to 3.15 billion in 2005.2 (See Figure 1.) People living in cities accounted for 49 percent of the total population of 6.46 billion in 2005.3

The bulk of future population increase—88 percent of the growth from 2000 to 2030—is projected to occur in cities of the developing world.4 Asia and Africa, the most rural contin­ents today, are set to double their urban populations to some 3.4 billion by 2030.5

Urbanization has slowed considerably in North America and Europe, where by 1950 more than half the population already lived in cities.6 Latin America, at 77 percent urban, has also gone through this demographic transition.7 Growth in that region’s “megacities”—urban agglomerations with more than 10 million inhabitants—has slowed, although large slum populations continue to grow, thanks to the world’s highest levels of economic and social inequality.8

The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization known around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Learn More