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New Report Contradicts the U.N.: More Like 84 Percent of the World Lives in Urban Areas

"Everything we've heard about global urbanization turns out to be wrong."
July 14, 2018, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Joseph Sohm

"Widely accepted numbers on how much of the world's population lives in cities are incorrect, with major implications for development aid and the provision of public services for billions of people, researchers say."

Gregory Sruggs shares the news about the new analysis from the European Commission, which directly contradicts widely cited figures from the United Nations that half the world's population lives in cities.

"Using a definition made possible by advances in geospatial technology that uses high-resolution satellite images to determine the number of people living in a given area, they estimate 84 percent of the world's population, or almost 6.4 billion people, live in urban areas," according to Scruggs.

The article gets into the reasons for the discrepancy—caused by what the article describes as inaccuracies of the reporting used by the United Nations, caused in part by varying definitions of what defines an urban area. "For example, India defines a city as a place where at least 75 percent of males are not working in the agricultural sector," explains Scruggs.

While increasing the percentage and total number of people who live in urban areas, the point raised in a 2016 article still stands: talking about how many people live in urban areas in such broad and general terms reduces the differences between places (like the suburbs).

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