The Consequences of Urbanization

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The consequences of urbanization are diverse having both positive and negative impacts. Using the perspective of sustainable development and its integrated approach, the following chapter provides the brief information on consequences of urbanization on economic, environmental and social development, though the focus will be given to consequences of urbanization on adequate housing, confirming to be as a persistent issue of developing world by the Habitat Conferences.

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Economic development

“Cities have become a positive and potent force for addressing sustainable economic growth, development and prosperity, and for driving innovation, consumption and investment in both developed and developing countries.” Indeed, 80 percent of the global GDP is accounted by cities and their contribution to the national income is great. This is even more accentuated in developing countries. According to UN-Habitat, it manifests a strong indicator that the transformative force of urbanization is even greater in developing countries.

For businesses, agglomerations mean proximity to supplier and consumers and therefore a reduction of the transportation and communication costs. It also means a wider range of alternatives and thus a higher chance for good matches between demand and supply, and a higher productivity. Another economic gain from agglomeration is the possibility to share services and infrastructures. In many European cities a revival of a “sharing culture,” partly due to the appearance of new technologies, contributes to sustainable cities. Finally, agglomerations lead to a higher flow of ideas and exchanges, leading to innovations. Formal and informal networks are more likely to be established.

Urban areas are also providing employment opportunities. Most of the private sector job creation is taking place in the city. In African countries, the urban employment in the last decades grew faster than their overall employment. However, as it is mentioned in the ‘Urban Paradox’, urban areas also tend to have high unemployment rate. One of the reasons is that the sectors, especially vulnerable to unemployment, like finance, construction, manufacturing, tourism, services and real estate, are particularly linked to urban areas.


Unplanned urbanization has a strong negative effect on environment. It can affect the biodiversity and the ecosystems negatively. Missing infrastructures like sewage, water and waste disposal lead to water and soil pollution and spread of diseases.

Air pollution is increasing in rapidly growing and industrializing cities due to high rate of motorization. Half of the world’s population is exposed to air pollution which is 2.5 times higher than the acceptable standard. Though cities occupy just 3 percent of the earth land, they account for 70 percent of carbon emission and up to 80 percent of the energy consumption.

Rapid urbanization increases the number of natural disasters affecting human beings residing in urban areas due to inadequate infrastructures In that regard, the concept of resilient cities was introduced in the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals. “Resilience refers to a city’s capacity to cope with disasters, including ability to address the structural factors underpinning vulnerabilities and to build more sustainable communities.”

Social development

“Urbanization has helped millions escape poverty through higher levels of productivity, employment opportunities, improved quality of life via better education and health, large-scale public investment, and access to improved infrastructure and services.” This especially apparent in Asia, where urbanization lead to massive economic growth and was accompanied by a decrease in poverty. In China, the poverty rate decreased from 84 percent in 1980 to 10 percent in 2013. But the linkage between urbanization and poverty reduction depends strongly on how urbanization is managed and since the first UN-Habitat conference in 1976, a persistent concentration of poverty in urban areas was noticed.

From economic perspective, indeed cities offer opportunities to improve access to services for health and education, transportation, housing, electricity, water, and sanitation for many people, however poorly planned cities may lead to problems in provision of basic services, like water supply, sewage, social and health services to citizens.

One of the main questions, related to the future of cities, concerns inclusion and exclusion of people. Inequality between rich and poor is extremely apparent in urban areas, stigmatizing some population groups, hindering them to take part in social and economic life and excluding them from opportunities in the society. Some population groups are much more affected by unplanned urbanization than others. In European cities, the older population, who are unemployed, is more likely to be affected by displacement processes and suffering the most from climate change.

Insecurity in urban areas is also gaining an increasing concern, as it was noticed by the Habitat III Conferences. Around 60 to 70 percent of urban citizens had been victims of crime and violence in cities with high urban growth. Urban growth and globalization have worsened the complexity and manifestation of crimes. These includes terrorism, urban warfare and pandemics.

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The Consequences Of Urbanization. (2021, Mar 19). Retrieved March 20, 2023 , from

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