From fast-developing urban hubs like Beijing and Mumbai, to mature metropolises such as London and Los Angeles, the dynamics driving urban growth are consistent around the globe. As a greater share of the world’s population migrates towards higher density communities, economic growth increasingly is centered in cities. In fact, growing cities could inject up to $30 trillion a year into the world economy by 2025, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.
Urbanization is nothing new. Its modern roots—and relative acceleration—date to the dawn of the industrial revolution. Since then, migration from farm to town has proceeded steadily around the world. Over the past generation, however, the process has picked up markedly. In 1950, for example, New York City was the world’s sole megacity (that is, a metropolitan area with a total population of more than 10 million people). Yet come 2015, there will be more than 20 such super-sized conurbations. Globally, some 180,000 people move into cities each day—that’s the equivalent of a new Chicago popping up every other month. Urbanization passed a milestone a few years ago—for the first time in history, humans became more urban than rural. If predictions come true, about 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.