Urban population (% of total)

Definition: Urban population refers to people living in urban areas as defined by national statistical offices. It is calculated using World Bank population estimates and urban ratios from the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects.

Description: The map below shows how Urban population (% of total) varies by country. The shade of the country corresponds to the magnitude of the indicator. The darker the shade, the higher the value. The country with the highest value in the world is Singapore, with a value of 100.00. The country with the lowest value in the world is Trinidad and Tobago, with a value of 8.45.

Source: United Nations, World Urbanization Prospects.

See also: Country ranking, Time series comparison

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Development Relevance: Explosive growth of cities globally signifies the demographic transition from rural to urban, and 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 percent of the global population lived in a city, but as of early 2010s, 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. About 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 (a city with a population of more than 10 million, as defined by UN HABITAT). Currently, the number of urban residents is growing by nearly 60 million every year. By the middle of the 21st century, the urban population will almost double, reaching 6.4 billion in 2050. Almost all urban population growth in the next 30 years will occur in cities of developing countries. By the middle of the 21st century, it is estimated that the urban population of developing counties will more than double, reaching almost 5.2 billion in 2050. In high-income countries, the urban population is expected to remain largely unchanged over the next two decades, reaching 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. In principle, cities offer a more favorable setting for the resolution of social and environmental problems than rural areas. Cities generate jobs and income, and deliver education, health care and other services. Cities also present opportunities for social mobilization and women's empowerment. Poverty is growing faster in urban than in rural areas. According to UN one billion people live in urban slums, which are typically overcrowded, polluted and dangerous, and lack basic services such as clean water and sanitation.

Limitations and Exceptions: Aggregation of urban and rural population may not add up to total population because of different country coverage. There is no consistent and universally accepted standard for distinguishing urban from rural areas, in part because of the wide variety of situations across countries. Most countries use an urban classification related to the size or characteristics of settlements. Some define urban areas based on the presence of certain infrastructure and services. And other countries designate urban areas based on administrative arrangements. Because of national differences in the characteristics that distinguish urban from rural areas, the distinction between urban and rural population is not amenable to a single definition that would be applicable to all countries. For example, in Botswana, agglomeration of 5,000 or more inhabitants where 75 per cent of the economic activity is non-agricultural is considered "urban" while in Iceland localities of 200 or more inhabitants, and in Peru, population centers with 100 or more dwellings, are considered "urban." In the United States places of 2,500 or more inhabitants, generally having population densities of 1,000 persons per square mile or more are considered "urban". Estimates of the world's urban population would change significantly if China, India, and a few other populous nations were to change their definition of urban centers. According to China's State Statistical Bureau, by the end of 1996 urban residents accounted for about 43 percent of China's population, more than double the 20 percent considered urban in 1994. In addition to the continuous migration of people from rural to urban areas, one of the main reasons for this shift was the rapid growth in the hundreds of towns reclassified as cities in recent years. Because the estimates of city and metropolitan area are based on national definitions of what constitutes a city or metropolitan area, cross-country comparisons should be made with caution. To estimate urban populations, UN ratios of urban to total population were applied to the World Bank's estimates of total population.

Statistical Concept and Methodology: Urban population refers to people living in urban areas as defined by national statistical offices. The indicator is calculated using World Bank population estimates and urban ratios from the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects. Percentages urban are the numbers of persons residing in an area defined as ''urban'' per 100 total population. They are calculated by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Particular caution should be used in interpreting the figures for percentage urban for different countries. The United Nations Population Division and other agencies provide current population estimates for developing countries that lack recent census data and pre- and post-census estimates for countries with census data. The cohort component method - a standard method for estimating and projecting population - requires fertility, mortality, and net migration data, often collected from sample surveys, which can be small or limited in coverage. Population estimates are from demographic modeling and so are susceptible to biases and errors from shortcomings in the model and in the data. Because the five-year age group is the cohort unit and five-year period data are used, interpolations to obtain annual data or single age structure may not reflect actual events or age composition. Countries differ in the way they classify population as "urban" or "rural." Typically, a community or settlement with a population of 2,000 or more is considered urban, but national definitions are most commonly based on size of locality. Eurostat defines urban areas as clusters of contiguous grid cells of 1 km2 with a density of at least 300 inhabitants per km2 and a minimum population of 5,000. Further it defines high-density cluster as contiguous grid cells of 1 km2 with a density of at least 1,500 inhabitants per km2 and a minimum population of 50,000. The population of a city or metropolitan area depends on the boundaries chosen. For example, in 1990 Beijing, China, contained 2.3 million people in 87 square kilometers of "inner city" and 5.4 million in 158 square kilometers of "core city." The population of "inner city and inner suburban districts" was 6.3 million and that of "inner city, inner and outer suburban districts, and inner and outer counties" was 10.8 million. (Most countries use the last definition.)

Aggregation method: Weighted average

Periodicity: Annual