“I see opportunities in all my businesses. And the reason is simple. We thrive in countries that are urbanizing.”
Luis R. Chenevert, Businessman
Advantages & Disadvantages of Urbanization
Urbanization can be defined as a population shift from rural to urban areas. Whereas only one century ago, people often lived in rural areas to work in agriculture, most people on our planet now work in the city since the kind of work that is needed in our nowadays society has changed significantly and people rather work in office jobs than in agricultural jobs.
Therefore, also the lifestyle of people changed significantly over time. Although urbanization has its advantages, there are also some problems related to it. In this article, the pros and cons of urbanization are examined.
Advantages of Urbanization
- Better public transport
- Better overall infrastructure
- More education opportunities
- Increasing property prices for homeowners
- People can use their time more efficiently
- More convenient if you have kids
- Connection to electricity grid and sewer system
- Better internet connection
- More efficient in terms of land use
- People in cities are usually more tolerant
- Better connection to healthcare facilities
- Better R&D opportunities to foster technological progress
- Urbanization attracts tourists
- Multicultural attitude
- Easier to socialize
- Lower unemployment rates
- Higher wages in cities on average
- Better recycling systems
Better public transport
One important advantage of urbanization is that cities often provide much better public transport compared to rural areas. While in small villages, there is barely any public transport at all or you have to wait a quite long time, some cities offer a quite reliable public transportation system and you only have to wait a couple of minutes until the next train or bus will arrive.
Moreover, in many big cities, you do not even need a car to get around since the public transportation system is so good. Thus, especially if you do not have or want to drive a car, you will do yourself a big favor by living in big cities instead of rural areas.
Better overall infrastructure
Urbanization also led to a state where there is a much better overall infrastructure in cities compared to rural areas. For instance, while the next supermarkets will only be a few minutes by walk in big cities, you might have to walk quite long distances until you find the next grocery store in rural regions.
This is not only true for grocery stores, but also for many other shops and facilities you might want to use in your daily life.
More education opportunities
Another advantage of urbanization is that cities often provide plenty of educational opportunities. This can range from a variety of preschools over public or private schools to higher education facilities like universities.
Thus, especially if you have kids and the education of your kids is important to you, you might prefer to live in a city due to the much better education opportunities.
Increasing property prices for homeowners
Urbanization has also led to a significant increase in property prices in big cities since the demand for flats and houses in cities increased dramatically.
While this may be bad for tenants since they have to spend a higher fraction of their wage on rent, it is pretty good for property owners since they can charge higher rents and when they finally want to sell their home, they can also sell it at a much higher price compared to the time where urbanization was not present.
People can use their time more efficiently
Another upside of urbanization is that people are now able to use their time more efficiently since the overall infrastructure in big cities is usually quite good and distances between the different facilities are much lower.
For instance, if you have to bring your kids to school, it might only take you a few minutes in big cities while you might have to drive quite long in rural areas.
The same is true for work or for many other things of daily life. Hence, if you live in a big city, chances are that you can save plenty of time in all parts of your daily life and can use this time for other things that you like instead.
More convenient if you have kids
Especially for families, it is much more convenient to live in cities compared to living in rural areas since there are many more education and entertainment facilities in big cities.
Moreover, it is also much easier to find friends and to maintain those friendships since the distances in cities are far lower and while it might be easy to visit a friend in a big city, it might be quite hard in rural areas since your friends might live quite long distances away from you.
Connection to electricity grid and sewer system
Another benefit of urbanization is that the electricity grid and the sewer systems have been optimized over time and in many big cities, you do not have to worry about those things at all.
People rather take it for granted that they have access to electricity all day long since they are so used to it.
However, in rural areas, there are still people who live without a connection to the local electricity grid. Thus, if you live in the city, you should be quite happy to profit from all those amenities that came along with urbanization.
Better internet connection
Urbanization also led to the need for sophisticated technologies and finally led to access to the internet for billions of people on our planet.
Although there are also some problems related to the internet, it can be considered to be one of the biggest and most important inventions in human history since it can make our lives so much better if we use it in the right manner.
More efficient in terms of land use
Urbanization can also contribute to more efficient land use. Since our world population is growing and we will soon suffer from significant levels of overpopulation, it is crucial to use our space as efficiently as possible.
By building big cities, the space per person can be reduced dramatically since more people can live in smaller flats instead of big houses like in rural areas.
Thus, the overall demand for space per person may decrease significantly due to urbanization, which may help to deal with our growing world population.
People in cities are usually more tolerant
On average, people also tend to be more tolerant in bigger cities compared to small villages. People in small rural villages are often more conservative and do not value new cultures too much.
Sometimes, cultural minorities are even socially isolated in those regions. However, in big cities, tolerance towards minorities is often much better since people are more open and do not see those cultures as a threat but rather as an opportunity to experience new lifestyles.
Better connection to healthcare facilities
Urbanization also gave people much better access to important healthcare facilities like hospitals. While it is quite hard to find hospitals in remote rural areas, it is rather easy to find them in bigger cities.
Hence, if you suffer from a serious health condition, you are much better off if you live in a big city since you will have much better access to proper medical treatment on average.
Better R&D opportunities to foster technological progress
Urbanization has also led to a state where many smart people live in a rather concentrated space. Therefore, those experts were able to meet and to work together quite often, which significantly boosted our technological progress in the past.
In general, also more research companies locate in urban areas since they are much better able to find qualified workers in this field in cities rather than in rural areas.
Urbanization attracts tourists
Another advantage of urbanization is that it has led to a flood of tourists for big cities over the past decades. For instance, New York has become so popular and people all over the world want to do all the tourist attractions the city has to offer.
Therefore, urbanization also contributed to a vast increase in tourism for many big cities, which in turn led to significant wealth for those cities.
Urbanization also often leads to a mix of many different cultures and nationalities in one city. Although some people may be skeptic about other cultures, the majority of us really enjoy experiencing different things and to learn about different cultural values and customs.
Thus, urbanization has also led to a bigger variety of cultural influences that we can enjoy in big cities.
Easier to socialize
Urbanization has also contributed to a state where it is much easier to socialize for people in big cities. Since public transport is quite good and people often live relatively close to each other, it is easier to meet and to maintain friendships and business connections.
Hence, urbanization has also made it easier for many people to connect to others, which can be quite beneficial in all parts of our life.
Lower unemployment rates
Through urbanization, the unemployment rates in cities have become much lower since big companies have settled down in those big cities and provide many job opportunities for the local population.
Thus, if you live in a big city, the chances for you of getting unemployed will likely also be much lower compared to rural areas where there are barely any jobs left at all in many regions of our planet.
Higher wages in cities on average
Not only the job opportunities in cities are much better on average, also the wages tend to be much higher. This is due to the fact that office jobs often pay much better than physically demanding jobs and more of those office jobs are located in big cities.
Therefore, urbanization also made it possible to earn good money in cities from office jobs instead of having to work in physically demanding jobs for a relatively low salary.
Better recycling systems
Urbanization has also contributed to the development of much more sophisticated waste management and recycling processes.
While there might not be recycling opportunities in remote rural areas, there are several easy ways to recycle your things in big cities.
Therefore, the recycling infrastructure is much better in urban areas and our resources can be used more efficiently due to that.
Disadvantages of Urbanization
- Higher level of air pollution
- More particle pollution
- Noise pollution
- Light pollution
- Cities may become quite crowded
- Traffic jams
- Higher level of stress
- Increase in health issues
- Increasing rents for tenants
- Higher chances for homelessness
- Development of slums
- Spread of diseases
- Waste management problems
- Pets may not like city life
- Lack of natural spaces
- Alteration of local ecosystems
- Infrastructure in rural areas gets worse
Higher level of air pollution
As we can see from the previous analysis, there are many advantages related to urbanization. However, there are also some downsides related to it. One disadvantage of urbanization is that it leads to significant air pollution in cities.
Many people have to commute to work and back and use their car. In turn, this implies significant air pollution from the fumes that are emitted from combustion engines. Thus, if you live in a big city, chances are that you will suffer from rather poor air quality.
More particle pollution
Local particle pollution is another issue that is connected to urbanization. Apart from the fumes that are emitted by cars that are operated by fossil fuels, there are also plenty of fine particles emitted into the air.
Urbanization has also contributed to a significant increase in noise pollution in big cities. Since many cars are used, the sound level in big cities is usually quite high, especially near the main roads.
Thus, if you live in a home that is located near one of those big roads, chances are that you will suffer from high levels of noise pollution and your quality of life may drop dramatically due to that.
Due to the excessive use of motor vehicles, urbanization has also contributed to increased light pollution.
Moreover, since houses are aligned pretty close next to each other in big cities, you might also suffer from light pollution if your neighbor leaves on his lights for the whole night for some reason.
Urbanization has also contributed to the littering problem in big cities. Since many people live in a rather confined space, there is often plenty of waste that is just disposed of right on the streets.
A prominent example of this is the disposal of cigarettes. You might notice that there are plenty of cigarette stubs on our streets and people seem not to care about disposing of them in a proper manner at all.
Cities may become quite crowded
Another downside of urbanization is that it contributes to a state where cities become quite crowded. If the population density becomes too high, the quality of life will decrease since we as humans need some space to breathe and too many people in a confined space will result in an increase in stress levels for many of us.
Urbanization also contributes to the formation of traffic jams. Especially in big cities with a high population density, people often spend quite a long time in traffic jams when they commute to work and back. This will result in less leisure time and can significantly hurt our quality of life in the long run.
Higher level of stress
Another issue with urbanization is that our overall stress level tends to be quite high if we live in big cities. Since big cities are quite crowded, we are often overwhelmed.
Moreover, also public transport will be quite crowded, at least during rush hour, which may further increase our stress levels.
Increase in health issues
The higher pollution and stress levels in big cities which can be attributed to urbanization also lead to higher risks for serious health problems. For instance, poor air quality can cause asthma or lung cancer.
Moreover, high stress levels may result in serious cardiovascular diseases in the long run. Hence, also the overall life expectancy of people living in big cities may be negatively affected due to those factors.
Increasing rents for tenants
Due to urbanization, an increasing number of people want to live in the city. In turn, the demand for flats and houses in cities increases dramatically, while the supply of properties in those cities is quite limited.
This results in steep increases in property prices and many people may have to spend a big fraction of their monthly income for their rent.
Higher chances for homelessness
If rents become too high due to the urbanization issue, chances are that many people may no longer be able to pay such large amounts of money for their accommodation.
In turn, those people may even become homeless if they get kicked out of their house or their apartment. Therefore, the chances for homelessness may also increase as a result of urbanization.
Development of slums
Urbanization also increases the risk of the development of slums. Poor people often do not have the money to afford renting a flat in the city center. Thus, slums are likely to form around the city borders where people have to live under quite poor conditions.
Spread of diseases
As a result of urbanization, also the spread of diseases become far more likely. Since the population density is quite high in big cities, there is much more close interaction in our daily life and the chances for diseases to spread from one person to another is much higher compared to rural areas with a lower population density.
Waste management problems
In some big cities, especially in poor parts of our planet, there is a big waste management problem. Backyards are often filled with large amounts of waste since the public waste management infrastructure is quite poor and people produce more waste than municipalities can handle. In turn, diseases are much more likely to spread due to those unhygienic conditions.
Pets may not like city life
If you have pets, city life may not be suitable for you. Your pets often need plenty of space and a big garden to feel comfortable since it is in their nature to move and play around.
Therefore, if you live in a small apartment, chances are that your dog may feel rather depressed and unhappy.
Lack of natural spaces
Urbanization has also led to a state where there are not too many green places left in many big cities.
Since property prices skyrocket in many cities, municipalities often decide to sacrifice parks in order to sell the space to investors who want to build big buildings on it.
However, due to a lack of green recovery spaces, the overall quality of life may vastly decrease in big cities.
Alteration of local ecosystems
Urbanization has also significantly altered many local ecosystems. Since the need for housing in many areas increased dramatically, large forest areas had to be cut down in order to get settlement space.
In turn, many animals lost their natural habitats and had to relocate. Many of them also suffered from a significant drop in populations, which in turn led to a significant ecological imbalance.
Infrastructure in rural areas gets worse
Another problem of urbanization is that it also leads to quite poor infrastructure in rural areas. Since people move away from those rural areas and relocate to cities, there are often not too many young people left in rural areas.
In turn, there is often also a lack of crucial infrastructure like hospitals, care facilities or simple grocery stores.
Top 10 Urbanization Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Urbanization Pros||Urbanization Cons|
|Better job opportunities||Higher levels of pollution|
|Higher salaries in cities||Stress levels increase|
|Life in cities has become more convenient||Less natural recovery space|
|Better access to medical facilities||Cities are quite crowded|
|Urbanization led to better education||Traffic jams|
|Technological progress||Spread of diseases|
|Time can be used more efficiently||Problems with waste management|
|Better connection to the internet||Alteration of ecosystems|
|Easier to socialize in cities||Health issues|
|Lower unemployment rates in cities||Rural areas may suffer|
Urbanization completely changed the quality of life of billions of people on our planet. Although there are many important advantages of urbanization, many people also suffer from serious downsides.
In the end, we should make sure that nobody is left behind in rural areas in order to improve the overall living conditions for all of us on a global scale.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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