Urbanization or urbanisation is the increase over time in the population of cities in relation to the region's rural population. Urbanization has intense effects on the ecology of a region and on its economy. Urban sociology also observes that people's psychology and lifestyles change in an urban environment.

Measures of urbanizationEdit

It can thus represent a level of urban population relative to total population of the area, or the rate at which the urban proportion is increasing. Both can be expressed in percentage terms, the rate of change expressed as a percentage per year, millennia or period between censuses. Urbanization can result from either:

  • an increase in the extent of urban areas
  • an increase in the density of urban areas

For instance, the United States or United Kingdom have a far higher urbanization level than China, India, Swaziland, or Nigeria, but a far slower annual urbanization rate, since much less of the population is living in a rural area while in the process of moving to the city. Australia is at the opposite of the former two in terms of urbanization rate but also the latter three in urbanization level, making it one of the most urbanised countries in the world. The most urbanised Continent is Australasia.

In terms of a place, urbanisation means increased spatial scale and/or density of settlement and/or business and other activities in the area over time. The process could occur either as natural expansion of the existing population (usually not a major factor since urban reproduction tends to be lower than rural), the transformation of peripheral population from rural to urban, incoming migration, or a combination of these

Urban sprawlEdit

The increase in the spatial scale is often called "urban sprawl". It is frequently used as a derogatory term by opponents of large-scale urban peripheral expansion especially for low-density urban development on or beyond the city fringe. Sprawl is considered unsightly and undesirable by those critics, who point also to diseconomies in travel time and service provision and the danger of social polarisation through suburbanites' remoteness from inner-city problems.

As with any form of mass human migration, negative environmental side effects can occur. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, much of America became rapidly urbanized. Problems in the cities, such as poor sanitation, led to many people migrating from the cities into undeveloped land. This was especially apparent in the 1940s and 1950s when the “American dream” led people out of the cities and encouraged them to move into suburbs. A dilemma was created as people typically did not plan out their moves into suburbia according to natural resources and land. This created huge depletions in land covered with forests and wildlife. Farmland was sold to developers to create more suburbs, strip malls and roads. A big issue in urban sprawl is the effect it has on our water resources, as more and more of these are being polluted. Air pollution, loss of wildlife and their habitats, as well as depletion of agricultural land will affect America in the present and future. Urban American centers and downtowns are drastically affected by urban sprawl as well. Deserted buildings and higher consumption of natural resources (petroleum) are direct effects of urban sprawl. City centers, once lively and populated have now become more deserted and cluttered with government housing. Cities become, in a sense, the resulting symbol of people moving to suburbs. They stand to show what suburbs may once become, deserted and desolate. While it is true that many people move out of cities for privacy or larger homes, the adverse environmental effects created will affect the future of America. More pollution, loss of wildlife, forest depletion, higher consumption of natural resources, and loss of farmland are direct consequences of urban sprawl.

Economic effectsEdit

The most striking immediate change accompanying urbanization is the rapid change in the prevailing character of local livelihoods as agriculture or more traditional local services and small-scale industry give way to modern industry and urban and related commerce, with the city drawing on the resources of an ever-widening area for its own sustenance and goods to be traded or processed into manufactures.

Research in urban ecology finds that larger cities provide more specialized goods and services to the local market and surrounding areas, function as a transportation and wholesale hub for smaller places, and accumulate more capital, financial service provision, and an educated labor force, as well as often concentrating administrative functions for the area in which they lie. This relation among places of different sizes is called the urban hierarchy.

As cities develop, effects can include a dramatic increase in rents, often pricing the local working class out of the market, including such functionaries as employees of the local municipalities. For example, in Eric Hobsbawm's book The age of the revolution: 1789–1848 (published 1962 and 2005) chapter 11, it was stated “Urban development in our period [1789–1848] was a gigantic process of class segregation, which pushed the new labouring poor into great morasses of misery outside the centres of government and business and the newly specialised residential areas of the bourgeoisie. The almost universal European division into a ‘good’ west end and a ‘poor’ east end of large cities developed in this period.” This is likely due the prevailing south-west wind which carries coal smoke and other airborne pollutants downwind, making the western edges of towns preferable to the eastern ones.

Changing form of urbanizationEdit

There are different forms of urbanization, or concentration of human activities, settlements, and social infrastructures. Some suggest that the dominant form of urbanization has been changing over time.

Traditional urbanization exhibits a concentration of human activities and settlements around the downtown area. When the residential area shifts outward, this is called suburbanization. A number of researchers and writers suggest that suburbanization has gone so far to form new points of concentration outside the downtown. This networked, poly-centric form of concentration is considered by some an emerging pattern of urbanization. It is called variously exurbia, edge city (Garreau, 1991), network city (Batten, 1995), or postmodern city (Dear, 2000). Los Angeles is the best-known example of this type of urbanization.

Planning for urbanizationEdit

planning|landscape planners]] are responsible for landscape infrastructure (public parks, sustainable urban drainage systems, greenways etc) which can be planned before urbanization takes place, or afterward to revitalized an area and create greater livability within a region.

Urbanization has in the United States affected the Rocky Mountains in locations such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Telluride, Colorado, Taos, New Mexico, Douglas County, Colorado and Aspen, Colorado. The lake district of northern Minnesota has also been affected as has Vermont, the coast of Florida, the Birmingham-Jefferson County, AL area, and the barrier islands of North Carolina.
In the United Kingdom, two major examples of new urbanization can be seen in Swindon, Wiltshire, and Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. These two towns show some of the quickest growth rates in Europe.

Present and future trendsEdit

According to the UN-HABITAT 2006 Annual Report, sometime in the middle of 2007, the majority of people worldwide will be living in towns or cities, for the first time in history; this is referred to as the arrival of the "Urban Milennium". As regards future trends, it is estimated 93% of urban growth will occur in Asia and Africa, and to a lesser extent in Latin America and the Caribbean. By 2050 over 6 billion people, two thirds of humanity, will be living in towns and cities.

New UrbanismEdit

A movement in Urban Design which started in the late 80's. New Urbanism believes in shifting design focus from the car-centric development of suburbia and the business park, to concentrated pedestrian and transit-centric, walkable, mixed-use communities. New Urbanism is an amalgamation of old-world design patterns, merged with present day demands. It is a backlash to the age of suburban sprawl, which splintered communities, and isolated people from each other, as well as had severe environmental impacts. Concepts for New Urbanism include concentrating people and destinations into dense, vibrant communities, and decreasing dependency on vehicular transportation as the primary mode of transit.


  • Batten, D. F. (1995). Network cities: creative urban agglomerations for the 21st century. Urban Studies, 32, 361-378.
  • Dear, Michael J. (2000). Postmodern urban condition. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Fischer, C. S. (1975). Toward a subcultural theory of urbanism. American Journal of Sociology 80, 1319-1341.
  • Fischer, Claude (1976). The urban experience. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • Gans, Harbert J. (1962). The Urban Villagers: Group and class in the life of Italian-Americans. New York: MacMillan.
  • Garreau, Joel. (1991). Edge city: Life on the new frontier. New York: Anchor Books.
  • Simmel, Georg. (1903 trans. 1971). Metropolis and mental life. in On Individuality and social forms ed. by Donald Levine. trans. by Edward Shills. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Tonnies, Ferdinand (1887 trans. 1988). Community & society, with an introduction by John Samples. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books.
  • Wirth, L. (1938). Urbanism as a way of life. American Journal of Sociology, 44, 3-24.

See alsoEdit

(articles we have or hope to have written)

External LinkEdit

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Urbanization. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Urbepedia, the content of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.