Urbanization is one of the major forces transforming societies all over the world. The rapid pace of urbanization is succinctly summarized in these sentences from the 2012 World Urbanization Prospects of the United Nations Population Division:
“Between 2011 and 2050, the world population is expected to increase by 2.3 billion, passing from 7.0 billion to 9.3 billion (United Nations, 2011). At the same time, the population living in urban areas is projected to gain 2.6 billion, passing from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion 2050. Thus, the urban areas of the world are expected to absorb all the population growth expected over the next four decades while at the same time drawing in some of the rural population. As a result, the world rural population is projected to start decreasing in about a decade and there will likely be 0.3 billion fewer rural inhabitants in 2050 than today.”
In 1900, less than 15 percent of world’s population lived in cities. According to the latest UN estimates, 52 percent of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. That number is estimated to go up to 60 percent by 2030, and near 70 percent by 2050.
Why are metropolitan areas continuing to grow at such a rapid pace? After all, back in the 1990s, quite a few people were predicting that the Internet would cause cities to decline. The Internet would enable people to work from anywhere, so they would choose to live in less populated areas, where lower costs and more space would let them enjoy a better quality of life. Needless to say, these predictions have not come true.