Cities and Urbanization

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
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Cities and Urbanization?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Cities and Urbanization is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Cities and Urbanization

  • 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.

Have you read?

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
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Cities and UrbanizationAfricaTrade and Investment
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

From São Paulo to Venice: 15 cities with ambitious zero-carbon projects

Victoria Masterson

April 12, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum