Urban Transformation

How has the world's urban population changed from 1950 to today?

Urban population urbanisation city living population

In 1950, less than 20 percent of Africans lived in cities, that number has increased to 43 percent for 2020. Image: Unsplash/Son Vu Le

Katharina Buchholz
Data Journalist, Statista
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  • To celebrate Cities Day, the U.N. has revealed the change in those living in urban areas, from 1950 to 2020.
  • 56.2% of the global population now lives in cities.
  • The biggest change has been in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 81.2% of the population living in urban areas, up from 41.3% in 1950.

The U.N. celebrated Cities Day on 31st October to bring a focus to urbanization. Data from its own Population Division shows where in the world urban populations are growing fastest. Africa and Asia – which already have urban populations bigger in total than those in Europe, Latin America or North America – have been increasing their share of urban dwellers most in the last 70 years.

While in 1950, less than 20 percent of Africans and Asians lived in cities, that number had increased to 43 percent and 51 percent, respectively, by 2020 South America also increased urban populations majorly during the same time period, arriving at an urban population share of more than 80 percent – higher than that of Europe.

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Urban populations made up the highest share in Northern American countries – 83.6 percent of residents lived in cities in 2020.

Overall, more people in the world live in urban than in rural setting since 2010. In 2020, 56.2 percent of the world population was urban. Half of these people lived in towns of less than 500,000 inhabitants.

Urban population global worldwide continent Africa Asia Europe Latin America Northern America
The percent of people living in urban areas has risen in every content. Image: Statista
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Related topics:
Urban TransformationGeographies in DepthTrade and Investment
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