What is Urbanization? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Is Urbanization?
  • 1:14 Examples
  • 1:42 London
  • 2:20 Chinese Coastal Cities
  • 2:49 Urbanization Statistics
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Urbanization describes both growing cities and population shifts away from rural living. This lesson explains both of these processes as well as several examples of urbanization from around the world.

What Is Urbanization?

While Li Beming eats lunch, he watches the trucks below with both fascination and dread. The teenager has always wanted to be a construction worker, but he also knows these construction workers are scheduled to tear down his village next year. Beming and the Li family have lived in the same village in China for centuries, and generations of his family have eaten lunch at this spot. The small hill he's on had previously offered views of several surrounding villages, but now his village is the only one remaining. The trucks, bulldozers, and cranes he's watching have torn down the villages, put in roads, and built tall buildings--the city that used to be a day's journey on foot is now on Beming's doorstep.

Li Beming and his family's village are hardly alone. Around the globe, more than a million people are changing from rural living to urban living every week. Because of this, the percentage of people living in urban areas has been increasing dramatically, with the UN announcing that 2008 marked the landmark year where more than half of humanity was living in urban areas. Urbanization describes both the increasing footprint of urban areas and the increasing percentage of the urban population.


Increasing urbanization is hardly a new phenomenon. One could argue this has been happening since the time of the first city, which is somewhere between 6,500 and 8,000 years ago (depending on how city is defined and which evidence you deem sufficient). Every city that has sprung up in that time period could be considered an example. Let's zoom in on a couple of the best known examples--London and Chinese coastal cities.


You may think of London as a sprawling city with trendy spots to eat and be seen. Was it always this way? Between 1800 and 2000, the population of London increased from one million to ten million, which correlates to an annual population growth of just over 1%. During the same time frame, the urban area of London grew from 36 square kilometers to 2300 square kilometers, which correlates to an annual increase in urban land area of just over 2%. For this, and many urban centers, the growth in urban land was greater than the growth in urban population.

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