Global Health Observatory (GHO)

Urban population growth


Urbanization, the demographic transition from rural to urban, is associated with shifts from an agriculture-based economy to mass industry, technology, and service. For the first time ever, the majority of the world's population lives in a city, and this proportion continues to grow. One hundred years ago, 2 out of every 10 people lived in an urban area. By 1990, less than 40% of the global population lived in a city, but as of 2010, more than half of all people live in an urban area. By 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people. Currently, around half of all urban dwellers live in cities with between 100 000 - 500 000 people, and fewer than 10% of urban dwellers live in megacities (defined by UN HABITAT as a city with a population of more than 10 million).


Globally, urban growth peaked in the 1950s, with a population expansion of more than 3% per year. Today, the number of urban residents is growing by nearly 60 million every year. The global urban population is expected to grow roughly 1.5% per year, between 2025-2030. By the middle of the 21st century, the urban population will almost double, increasing from approximately 3.4 billion in 2009 to 6.4 billion in 2050. Almost all urban population growth in the next 30 years will occur in cities of developing countries. Between 1995 and 2005, the urban population of developing countries grew by an average of 1.2 million people per week, or around 165 000 people every day. By the middle of the 21st century, it is estimated that the urban population of these counties will more than double, increasing from 2.5 billion in 2009 to almost 5.2 billion in 2050. Nonetheless, on average, the rate of urban population growth is slowing in developing countries, from annual rate of roughly 4% from 1950-1975 to a projected 1.55% per year from 2025-2050. In high-income countries, on the other had, the urban population is expected to remain largely unchanged over the next two decades, increasing from 920 million people to just over 1 billion by 2025. In these countries, immigration (legal and illegal) will account for more than two-thirds of urban growth. Without immigration, the urban population in these countries would most likely decline or remain static.


More Urban Health data products