Supercities: Problems of Urban Growth

November 22, 1985

Report Outline
Increase in Urbanization
Living in Urban Sprawl
Debating Solutions
Special Focus

Increase in Urbanization

Urban Agglomerations in Developing World

A Massive earthquake rocked Mexico City Sept. 19, causing more than 9,500 deaths and damaging some 3,000 buildings. The tremor left an estimated 50,000 Mexicans homeless and about that many without jobs. It also focused attention on Mexico City's enormous population and renewed calls for ways to stop the city's meteoric growth. Mexico City, which had 3.1 million inhabitants in 1950, now has the largest population—more than 18 million—of any city in the world.

Mexico City is by no means the developing world's only supercity. In 1985, 13 of the 20 most populous cities are in Third World countries; by 2000, 17 of the 20 biggest cities will be in developing countries. Thirty-four urban areas around the globe each have more than five million inhabitants—compared with 10 cities with five-million-plus populations in 1950. Overall about 41 percent of the world's 4.85 billion people live in urban areas. In 1950 under 30 percent of the world's population resided in cities and towns.

This urban growth, moreover, is accelerating, primarily in the developing nations. Demographers predict that more than 1.1 billion people will be added to the urban population in the developing countries by the turn of the century. As the cities of the Third World grow, their myriad social and economic problems—from traffic jams to crime rates—will multiply. “The problem of cities and urbanization will become exceedingly more serious as we approach the 21st century,” said Rafael M. Salas, executive director of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.

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Apr. 09, 2010  Earthquake Threat
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Jun. 23, 2006  Downtown Renaissance Updated
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Oct. 03, 1997  Urban Sprawl in the West
Mar. 21, 1997  Civic Renewal
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Jun. 09, 1989  Not in My Back Yard!
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Nov. 22, 1985  Supercities: Problems of Urban Growth
Jul. 23, 1982  Reagan and the Cities
Nov. 18, 1977  Saving America's Cities
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Feb. 07, 1973  Restrictions on Urban Growth
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Nov. 06, 1968  New Towns
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Jan. 21, 1959  Metropolitan Areas and the Federal Government
Jul. 30, 1958  Persistence of Slums
Dec. 09, 1953  Outspreading Cities
Nov. 22, 1952  Slum Clearance: 1932–1952
Jan. 14, 1937  Zoning of Urban and Rural Areas
Diplomacy and Diplomats
Economic Development
State, Local, and Intergovernmental Relations