Urbanisation is the increase in the proportion of people living in towns and cities. As you can see from the graph below there has been a significant increase in urbanisation between 1950 and 2014, from 0.8 billion to 3.85 billion people.
The world’s urban and rural populations 1950-2050 – source UN
Urbanisation first occurred in high-income countries (HICs) during the industrial revolution. People were attracted to urban areas (pulled) from rural areas to work in factories. They were also pushed as developments in technology led to mechanisation on farms.
Nowadays, the rate of urbanisation in low-income countries (LICs) is greater than in HICs. As LICs are developing more people are migrating to urban areas. The choropleth maps below clearly show how many LICs are becoming more urbanised.
Percentage of the population residing in urban areas, 1950, 2014 and 2050 – source: UN – https://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/Publications/Files/WUP2014-Report.pdf
Although urbanisation is greater in richer areas of the world compared to poor areas rates of urban growth (changes between 1950 and 2000) are higher in poorer areas of the world. As you can see from the graph above rates of urbanisation in poorer parts of the world are very high. This is due to rural-urban migration. Current rates are projected to increase due to industrialisation and economic development in some poorer countries. Urbanisation growth rates are lower in more developed countries because major urbanisation has already taken place hence the already high levels of urbanisation (over 80%).
Rates of Urbanisation – Source AQA Geography Paper 2 2014