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What are the reasons for the growth in the world’s major urban centres in the twentieth century? Are the reasons for the growth similar to those that explained urban growth in the developed countries?

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PhD Student
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Mary Beth S.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Review
  3. Conclusion

While the origins of cities go back to over five thousand years, urbanization; the process of population concentration into urban areas is a recent phenomenon dating back to the 18th Century when cities began growing in the now developed world. As Davis puts it, ?before 1850 no society could be described as predominantly urban. Today, all industrial nations are highly urbanized, and in the world as a whole the process of urbanization is accelerating rapidly.?

Davis's observations are substantiated by Todaro's findings on the global rate of urbanization, which the reports rose from 29 in 1950 to 50 in 2007. Despite having stabilized in the developed countries, the process of urbanization continues to increase throughout most of the developing world, where 75% of the world's increase in urban population is projected to occur. What are the driving forces behind this trend? Is the urban explosion happening in developing countries in the 20th Century simply a linear extension of the urbanization of the now-developed countries in the 19th Century? To answer these questions, I will first discuss the role of cities and the demographic trends in both sets of countries, then I will analyze the relative importance of industrialization and the informal sector, and finally, I will assess the similarities between the developed world's and developing world's experiences. I will attempt to show that despite some overlap between the two urbanization experiences, there are important quantitative and qualitative differences. While urbanization in today's developed countries was influenced mainly by an influx of migrants from rural areas driven by industrialization, in developing countries it is primarily the result of the natural increase of urban populations and their reliance on the informal sector.

[...] Todaro, Economic Development (2000), ch.8, ?Urbanisation and Rural- Urban Migration' [16] K.Davis, The Origin and Growth of Urbanization in the World, The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 60, No. 5, World Urbanism (Mar., 1955), pp. 429-437 [17] P. Hohenberg, The Making of Urban Europe, 1000-1950 (1985), ch.7, 213- 247 [18] E. Leamer and M. Storper, "The Economic Geography of the Internet Age", NBER Working Paper No. 8450 (2001) [19] J. Gugler, Economic Development and Cultural Change, Vol. 31, No.1 (Oct., 1992), pp. [...]


[...] Are the reasons for the growth similar to those that explained urban growth in the developed countries? While the origins of cities go back to over five thousand years, urbanization; the process of population concentration into urban areas is a recent phenomenon dating back to the 18th Century when cities began growing in the now developed world. As Davis puts it, ?before 1850 no society could be described as predominantly urban. Today, all industrial nations are highly urbanized, and in the world as a whole the process of urbanization is accelerating rapidly.? Davis's observations are substantiated by Todaro's findings on the global rate of urbanization, which the reports rose from 29% in 1950 to 50% in 2007. [...]

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