What Does Urbanization Really Mean?

by Carl Haub, senior demographer, PRB

Few terms in demography can cause more confusion than “urbanization.” News stories reporting projections of world urbanization are nearly always accompanied by photographs of places such as London or Shanghai, and it does seem rather natural to think of urbanization in those terms.

There are really two ways to describe urbanization: urban places and metropolitan areas. Historically, the definition of “urban” has been quite different across countries. In a sense, the urban population was originally more akin to “nonfarm,” although not all people in rural areas worked in farming itself.  Considering how the concept of urban-rural began will help in understanding its meaning today.
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