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    Demographia. World Urban Areas & Population Projections. 11 th Annual Edition January 2015

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(Built Up Urban Areas or World Agglomerations)
Demographia World Urban Areas (Introduction)


Table 1: Largest Urban Areas in the World
Table 2: Urban Areas byy Geography
g p y ((Includingg Selected under 500,000 Population)
Table 3: Urban Areas by Land Area (Urban Footprint)
Table 4: Urban Areas by Urban Population Density


Table 5: Summary: Urban Areas Over 500,000
Mumbai: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)


Demographia World Urban Areas
(Built-Up Urban Areas or Urban Agglomerations)
11th Annual Edition: January 2015
Demographia World Urban Areas (Built-up Urban Areas or Urban Agglomerations) is the only annually published inventory of population,
corresponding land area and population density for urban areas with more than 500,000 population. Unlike metropolitan area lists, Demographia
World Urban Areas applies a generally consistent definition to built-up urban areas. 1 Demographia
World Urban Areas has been widely cited and has been used by respected websites, such as “City
This report contains population, land area and population density for all 1,009 identified urban areas
(urban agglomerations or urbanized areas) in the world with 500,000 or more population as of the
volume date. The total population of these urban areas is estimated at 2.06 billion, 53 percent of the
world urban population in 2015
A number of smaller urban areas are also listed. Overall, data is provided for 1,728 urban areas of
all sizes, which comprise a population of 2.2 billion people, 56 percent of the world urban population.
Revisions from the last edition: Improved satellite imagery is routinely becoming available, which
makes it possible to increase the accuracy of land area estimates that are not available from
national census authorities. Further, the United Nations has expanded its "urban agglomeration" list

Toward More Prosperous Cities:
Framing Essay on Urban Policy, Planning,
Transport and the Dimensions of Sustainability
11th Annual Demographia International
Housing Affordability Survey

The Evolving Urban Form
(Profiles of World Urban Areas)
City Sector Model
(Urban Core & Suburban Small Area Analysis
within Metropolitan Areas (US)


Other regularly published urban agglomeration lists do not contain consistently defined entities. They tend to mix metropolitan areas, municipalities (parts of
metropolitan areas) and urban areas (built up urban areas or agglomerations). None of these lists include urban land area data. The United Nations list is unique
in providing notes that clarify the nature of its listings (core cities, metropolitan areas, urban areas and others).

Demographia World Urban Areas: 11th Annual Edition: 2015.01 (Built-Up Urban Areas or World Agglomerations)


to include populations of 300,000 or more, from the previous 750,000 threshold. This augmented source has made it possible to expand this edition
to the more than 1,000 urban areas with more than 500,000 population.
Demographia World Urban Areas is not intended for trend
analysis. Changes indicated in population and land area
represent the latest and most accurate information available.
However, there is little or no historical urban area data and
sources are continually improving. As a result, changes in
individual urban areas from year to year may indicate improved
sources, rendering previous data non-comparable with the latest

Distribution: Large Urban Area Population



More than one-half of the population of large urban areas
(500,000 and over) is in Asia, living in 532 of the 1,009 large
urban areas (Figure 1). In recent years, the world has become
more than one-half urban for the first time in history. This year's
edition indicates that there are 34 megacities in the world (urban
areas over 10 million population). A total of 75 urban areas are
indicated with 5,000,000 or more population.

North America


South America


Figure 1
Yet, it would be a mistake to imply that the world's urban
residents live in settings similar to 5th Avenue in New York or within the fourth ring road of Beijing or in inner Paris. A sizable number of people live in
urban settings that are anything but large urban (See: What is a Half-Urban World? 2). Less than one quarter (23.3 percent) of the world population
lives in urban areas of 1,000,000 population or more. Less than 30 percent (28.1 percent) lives in urban areas with 500,000 or more population.
More than 70 percent of the world's population lives outside urban areas with 500,000 or more residents (Figure 2). 3


Wendell Cox (2012), "What is a Half-Urban World," The New Geography, http://www.newgeography.com/content/003249-what-a-half-urban-world.
The of urban areas under 100,000 is estimated by applying ratios from, Making Room for a Planet of Cities (Shlomo Angel, with Jason Parent, Daniel L. Civco,
and Alejandro M. Blei) to the Demographia data.

Demographia World Urban Areas: 11th Annual Edition: 2015.01 (Built-Up Urban Areas or World Agglomerations)


A ranking analysis of world urban areas indicates that the world median urban resident lives in Honolulu, an urban area with an estimated population
of 842,000 residents in 2015. On other words, one-half of the world's urban residents live in urban areas small than Honolulu and one-half live in
urban areas that are larger.
An urban area ("built-up urban area," 4 urbanized area or urban
agglomeration) 5 is a continuously built up land mass of urban
development that is within a labor market (metropolitan area or
metropolitan region. An urban area contains no rural land (all
land in the world is either urban or rural). In some nations, the
term "urban area" is used, but does not denote an urban area
as a built-up urban area. 6
An urban area is best thought of as the “urban footprint” --- the
lighted area that can be observed from an airplane (or satellite)
on a clear night. National census authorities in Australia,
Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway,
Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States designate
urban areas. Except in Australia, the authorities use a minimum
urban density definition of 400 persons per square kilometer (or
the nearly identical 1,000 per square mile in the United States).
Urban Areas Contrasted with Metropolitan Areas: An urban
area (built-up urban area or urban agglomeration) is
fundamentally different from a metropolitan area. A

Population by Size of Urban Area & Rural
WORLD 2015

Rural (Not Urban)


Under 100,000

Figure 2


"Built up urban area" is the new urban area term now used by National Statistics in the United Kingdom. It may be the most descriptive short term for urban
Called a "population centre" in Canada and an "urban centre" in Australia. The term "urban area" is used (or translated into English) in China and New Zealand.
However, in these countries "urban areas" extend well beyond the built-up urban area and are thus more similar to metropolitan areas.
In China, sub-city or sub-regional districts called “shixiaqu” (市辖区) are sometimes referred to as urban areas. Shixiaqu, however are more akin to labor
markets (metropolitan areas) and extend well beyond the urban footprint. Similarly, urban areas as defined in New Zealand are more akin to labor markets
(metropolitan areas) because they extend beyond the urban footprint.

Demographia World Urban Areas: 11th Annual Edition: 2015.01 (Built-Up Urban Areas or World Agglomerations)


metropolitan area is a labor market and includes substantial rural (non-urban) 7 territory or area of discontinuous urban development (beyond the
developed urban fringe).
Urban areas draw employees from a labor market area larger than the area of continuous development. For example, INSEE, the census authority of
France defines the Paris urban area ("unité urbaine") as 2,845 square kilometers and the Paris metropolitan area (aire urbaine) as 17,100 square
kilometers, indicating that more than 80 percent of the land area is outside the Paris urban area. Similarly, in the United States, among the 52
metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population, 81 percent of the land area is rural, not urban. 8
Because of the fundamental differences between urban areas (or urban agglomerations) and metropolitan areas, it is inappropriate to compare their
populations. Despite that, some lists of urban areas or metropolitan areas contain mixed and thus non-comparable data.
Metropolitan Area Densities: Metropolitan area densities can be calculated. However, because there are no international standards for delineating
metropolitan areas, comparisons between nations are non-comparable. Moreover, the building blocks for metropolitan areas are often far too large
for comparison. Among the least useful building blocks are in the United States, where counties are used. The size of counties in the United States
varies up to 1,500 times. The most expansive metropolitan area in the United States is Riverside-San Bernardino, at 27,300 square miles (71,000
square kilometers), not much smaller than Austria. Metropolitan densities in the United States therefore cannot even be validly compared even
among themselves.
Further, metropolitan densities should not be confused with urban densities. Urban densities can be calculated only using urban populations and
excluding populations of rural areas. All metropolitan areas have rural areas and thus no metropolitan density measure can be an urban density
Urban Areas and Urban Extents Contrasted: In some cases, urban areas have virtually grown together, yet are still considered separate urban
areas. This report confines urban areas to a single metropolitan area (below) or labor market area. Continuous urbanization that extends beyond
individual labor markets (metropolitan areas) can be called "urban extents." What constitutes a particular metropolitan area is a matter of judgment
and there are no generally accepted international principles for delineating metropolitan areas (unlike urban areas). However, it is necessary to “draw
a line,” especially where adjacent urban areas have “grown together,” but remain essentially distinct labor markets. For example, the following urban
extents are composed of more than one urban area:


All land is that is not urban is considered rural.
Wendell Cox, "Rural character in America's Metropolitan Areas, The New Geography, " http://www.newgeography.com/content/004088-rural-characteramerica-s-metropolitan-areas


Demographia World Urban Areas: 11th Annual Edition: 2015.01 (Built-Up Urban Areas or World Agglomerations)


The coast of Japan from Tokyo-Yokohama to Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto has nearly “grown together.” Yet, this ribbon of urbanization is far too
large to be a single metropolitan area (labor market) and thus considered to be multiple urban areas (an urban extent).

The Pearl River Delta urban areas of Shenzhen, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Huizhou, Zhuhai, Guangzhou and Foshan in
China’s Guangdong province are very close to one-another and in some cases the built-up urban areas are virtually adjacent. Yet, this is
not considered a single built-up there is not a single, unified labor market. This report considers Guangzhou and Foshan as a single
urban area, because they have become more economically integrated than the other urban areas. Each of the other areas in the Pearl
River Delta economic region is classified as a separate urban area. The urban extent also includes Hong Kong, which would also be
disqualified from being a part of an integrated Pearl River Delta urban area by virtue of border control that is virtually international in

The Yangtze River Delta contains nearby urban areas stretching from Nanjing to Shanghai, Hangzhou and Ningbo. In most cases there
is a clear rural delineation between these urban areas. Moreover, each is a separate labor market, even where there is contiguity. Each
of the urban areas is thus considered separate.

The same applies to the Northeastern "megalopolis" of the United States. The continuous urban development that exists is has rural
separations in some cases and each of the major metropolitan areas represents a separate labor market. Thus virtually continuous
urban areas of the Northeast corridor are considered separate.

International Urban Areas: Urban areas (and metropolitan areas) are confined to a single nation, unless there is virtual freedom of movement
(including labor) between the adjacent nations. This is indicated by the lack of customs or immigration facilities at borders, or the broad access to
work permits for working in adjacent countries. Currently, this condition is met only between some continental nations of the European Union. For
example, the Lille urban area is in both France and Belgium yet is considered a single urban area because there is freedom of labor movement
without trade, immigration or customs barriers. Treaty provisions render Geneva (Switzerland)-Annemasse (France), Basel (Switzerland) and the
suburban areas of France and Germany and Milan together with Chiasso in Switzerland as a single urban area.
However, Detroit-Windsor and San Diego-Tijuana are not considered single urban areas because there is not freedom of labor movement between
the two nations. Moreover, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, adjacent urban areas in China, are considered to separate urban areas, principally because
unfettered labor movement between is not permitted.
Municipality (City or Commune): An urban area is different from a municipality (also often called a city or a local government authority).
Municipalities have political boundaries that usually include only a part of the urban area. For example, the city of Seoul represents less than onehalf of the population of the Seoul-Incheon urban area, which extends well beyond the municipality. On the other hand, a municipality may be

Demographia World Urban Areas: 11th Annual Edition: 2015.01 (Built-Up Urban Areas or World Agglomerations)


considerably larger than an urban area and therefore contain considerable non-urban (or rural) territory. Zaragoza, Spain is an example. A large part
of the municipality of Mumbai is rural, composed of the Rajiv Ghandi National Park and thus not included in the urban area.
The translated term "city" is generally used to denote sub-provincial (or in some cases provincial) government areas in China. These would be more
appropriately called “regions” and many were formerly referred to as "prefectures." Generally, they extend far beyond their built-up areas (such as
Beijing, Tianjin, Wuhan and Guangzhou). The city of Chongqing, which has the largest population of any entity called a city (municipality) in the world
and the stretches far beyond any reasonable definition of a metropolitan area and also has a land area similar to that of Austria. Its population is
largely rural, not urban, and is far too large to be considered a metropolitan area (unlike some Chinese "cities").
Demographia World Urban Areas provides average urban population density data. It is not possible to perfectly coordinate the dates of current
population estimates with land area estimates. As a result, population densities (calculated using current estimates) are expressed in rounded
numbers (to the nearest 100). Thus, the urban population densities should be considered reasonable approximations, rather than as precise.
By necessity, average data masks significant variations within urban areas. For example, the population density of the Phoenix urban area is more
than half-again higher than that of the Boston urban area. Yet, the highest population densities of the Boston core are at least five times that of the
highest density areas in Phoenix. Moreover, Boston has a far larger commercial core (“central business district” or “downtown”). The difference is
that the Phoenix suburbs are denser than the Boston suburbs.
Similarly, London and Athens have similar population densities. Yet, the core densities in Athens are considerably higher than in London. The
Athens suburbs, however, are among the least dense in the world. The Essen-Dusseldorf and Milan urban areas have almost identical densities, yet
core densities are considerably higher in Milan. Demographia World Urban Areas defines the population and density of urban footprints, regardless
of their internal density profiles.
A base year population is provided for all urban areas. The base year estimate uses the methodology indicated by the coding in the “Source:
Population” column. Current population estimates are provided for larger urban areas, using projected population growth rates, principally from the
United Nations or national authorities.

Demographia World Urban Areas: 11th Annual Edition: 2015.01 (Built-Up Urban Areas or World Agglomerations)


Base Year Population Estimates: Methods
National census authority population land area data is used where it is reported for urban areas. 9 For other urban areas, Demographia uses mapping
software to estimate continuous urbanization. Demographia also uses small area population data, where available, to match population estimates to
urban land area.
Sources for Base Population