Will Cities Continue Driving Economic Growth?

  • Will Cities Continue Driving Economic Growth?

Archaeological evidence suggests that cities as recognizable entities arose in the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers around 3,200 BCE—some 10,000 years after the domestication of rye (and other grains later), and 5,000 years after the emergence of village communities that prioritized intensive agriculture over hunting and gathering. Shortly thereafter, or perhaps simultaneously, cities appeare in China and in Mesoamerica. The spread of intensive agriculture enabled cities to multiply and flourish. Ideas and innovations that germinated in cities served as the nuclei of civilization and, more recently, in the making of modern societies. Cities may have been the drivers of change in earlier times. However, as recently as 1800, only 3 percent of the world’s population was urban. A century later, the urban share was still only 14 percent. Not until 2012 did urban dwellers—more than 3.6 billion in total— outnumber their rural counterparts (52 percent). The trend line points toward 6.3 billion urban inhabitants out of a projected total world population of 9.3 billion in 2050. People born in the 1920s have witnessed, in less than a blink of the historical eye, an extraordinary elongation of life spans, a staggering increase in demographic numbers, and a triumph of the city over the countryside. As we look toward the future, we can anticipate equally significant—and surprising—changes.

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Shahid Yusuf
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Will Cities Continue Driving Economic Growth?
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