The last six decades have been a period of rapid urbanisation. More than half of the world’s population now live in cities and towns, compared to just over a third in 1955. And that figure is expected to grow to two-thirds by 2050: a projected additional 2.5 billion people living in urban areas.

At the moment around half of all urban dwellers live in cities of fewer than 500,000 inhabitants. Only one in eight live in one of the world’s 28 “mega-cities” – i.e. one with a population of more than 10 million.

The profile of the world’s largest cities has changed dramatically over the past 60 years, as revealed in these charts based on UN data.

150831-largest-cities-1955 150831-largest-cities-2015

Tokyo is at the top of both rankings, having added 25 million people to its population in the 60 years from 1955 to 2015. But it’s there that the similarities end. In 2015 the top 10 is dominated by cities located in emerging economies, with two Indian and Chinese cities featuring, along with cities from Brazil, Mexico and Egypt.

The growing size of all cities is also notable: only two cities in 1955 topped 10 million people, but by 2015 the top 8 all have populations in excess of 20 million.

This data is taken from the UN’s 2014 revision of its World Urbanization Prospects report.

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Author: Paul Muggeridge is Head of Content at Formative Content.

Image: An aerial view of Mexico city at night from an airplane, December 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge Silva