What are the reasons for the rapid growth of major cities in less developed countries?

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Louise Sherwin                                                         07 March 2000

June 1997 Past Paper Geography Essay: Urbanisation

18. Part One

What are the reasons for the rapid growth of major cities in less developed countries?

        It is estimated that 20 out of every 25 conurbations are currently located in the developing world. The growth of developing world cities over the past fifty years is unequalled in its pace, as has the rate of urbanization. The growth of cities is far from equal however, and it is predominately the largest which are experiencing the greatest rise in population.        

The increase of urban populations in developing countries is the result of three main factors; natural increase, net in-migration to cities and reclassification of urban borders. Natural increase is attributed to approximately 60% of urban growth and has had the greatest influence upon the growth observed. Average annual population growth rates for the developing world stand at 2.1%, over four times that of the industrialized world. In the developing world, infant mortality has fallen and the life expectancy increased, therefore leading to a large population increase as high birth rates are maintained. Western intervention has been largely attributed to these trends, as welfare and environmental conditions have been improved. Vaccinations have helped to prevent epidemics and therefore lower mortality rates. Improved nutrition and water supplies have also been major influences. In Latin America, child mortality has almost halved between 1975 and 1990, whilst life expectancy has increased by eight years. In conclusion, with annual population increase at over 2%, the population in developing world cities will increase accordingly. It may be suggested that with better quality medical care available in cities that population growth will be even higher in larger cities than average rates.

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The second largest influence upon developing cities growth rates is net in-migration, accounting for approximately 30% of increase. Net in-migration can be seen across the developing world.

According to J Gugler in Internal Migration in the Third World;

“Rural-urban migration constitutes the last phase in a great human revolution; it completes the urban transition…. the magnitude of it, the sheer number of people involved in it, is without precedent in human history.”

        . A complex process underlies the nature of rural-urban migration and the reasons behind it. Colonialism can be attributed to the location ...

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