The world’s population is growing faster than ever

The world’s population is growing faster than ever; it is growing at a rate of 1.2% annually. Cities and towns house half of the world’s population with an estimated 180,000 people moving to urban areas every day (Urban). Our cities are constantly changing; some for the better but not always. Urbanisation is defined as the process of enlarging cities as more people move towards them and it greatly changes cities all around the world (Urbanization).
North America, as of 2014, was one of the most urbanised region with 82% percent of the population in urban areas. In the same year, Africa and Asia housed almost 90% of the world’s rural population (Urban). Urban areas are often commercialized for their benefits. More jobs are available in urban areas along with access to health care systems and higher educational opportunities. Skilled workers are attracted to the city to advance their knowledge and skill set (Arouri).
A way to assess the positives and negatives of urban and rural life would be through an assessment of life satisfaction. Life satisfaction is a representation of how a person evaluates or assess their life “as a whole” with the indicator being measured on a scale of 0-10 for each individual. Overall life satisfaction is measured through cognitive assessments of a person’s life. It focuses on both positive and negative feelings such as happiness, sadness, or anger. By integrating a “diverse range” of experiences of each individual gives an evaluative assessment of life satisfaction (Quality).
The issue of debate lies with the idea that urbanisation does more harm than good. Some researchers argue that the downsides of urban living are greater than the benefits. Smart growth is defined as a way to expand cities without compromising economic opportunities while still protecting the human health and the environment (Smart). Researchers against smart growth argue that it exacerbates the problems of traffic, congestion, and pollution among other typical issues of urban areas. Another issue raised by those against further urbanisation claim that lower property values in urban areas may lead to the worsening of these conditions (Resnik).
Researchers that assess the strengths of urbanisation often focus on the growth of workers within the city. According to a working paper from Harvard focusing on urbanisation in Africa, a city’s growth is dependent on productive workers with appropriate jobs to further develop their skills. It was found that when exposed to similar people, particularly in urban areas, workers advance their skills and knowledge quicker than in rural areas where they are not interacting with similar people to them. The togetherness of alike people has been known to raise the productivity of the workers. This study insinuates that urbanisation is solely dependent on the migration of skilled workers, leaving little room to assume that the researchers believe that unskilled workers have the potential to be important in urban economics.
The same working paper laid out push and pull factors in Africa as reasons to move towards urban areas. Urban areas should be incentivised due to their pull factors. In Africa, the pull factors are typically in response to job opportunities. The push factors from the migrants’ starting point would be due to climate variability and civil wars. Migration to urban areas are deemed unavoidable due to rural-urban wage gaps and it is seen as a way to improve human resources. In Africa, some may migrate to escape droughts, famines, floods, and internal conflicts. An example would be Sub-Saharan economies who are more dependent on rainfall. Agriculture accounts for more than twice the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the other developing regions. Rainfall in the Sub-Saharan Africa can worsen the chronic diseases that have the ability to affect labor productivity. This working paper lacks evidence to support the claims to migration in Africa. The paper seems to be theoretical in the sense of the reasons given in the paper could be why Africans are migrating; but there is uncertainty if these are the true reasons they are migrating. The fact that this is a working paper lowers the credibility of the evidence as it was published to be reviewed by other colleagues.
One example of a positive impact of urban growth boundaries is in Portland, Oregon. In 1973, the state passed the Land Conservation and Development act; which requires all cities in the state to plan how they are going to use their land to create an urban growth boundary. Between 1990 and 2000, there was a growth in scientific industries. This brought in roughly 400,000 residents that were highly educated and high-income professionals that, in turn, brought in retailers. Portland was chosen as the first site for a “vertically oriented urban store.” This features apartments above and parking below the store with an example being the Brewery Blocks. Brewery Blocks was purchased in January 2000 and the land was redeveloped to use as a mix of office, retail, and residential buildings (Family/Brewery). The boundary has lured high investors that increased the quality of the retail in what was considered a “starved market.” Unemployment in 2005 was at 7.8%, down from 9% earlier in the decade. Retail vacancy rates also dropped by 0.8% by the end of 2004 while rents and property values rose (Sitko). This helped to create a successful urban region. The author of the article cites all sources she used to build her argument about the success of urban growth boundaries in Portland. This gives the article some credibility for the information used about Portland. The article was published by the University of Michigan, giving it a sense of credibility. It was published in 2005, making the data out of date for this point in time. The information was given from a side view, simply reiterating facts from her cited sources, yet the author only cited one source for her information about the successful urban growth boundary in Portland. This decreases the credibility of the source as there was no fact checking of statistics given, it was assumed that all were correct to begin with.
Other researchers argue that living in urban areas is not something to be desired. A journal by David Resnik from the American Journal of Public Health argues that smart growth is more of a detriment to urban problems than a positive. He claims that smart growth can decrease property values. This occurs when the increase in population density worsens local traffic and crime. They can also be affected by commercial development in residential areas due to increased traffic and crime. Crime has the ability to increase when transit systems connect residential areas to locations where crime is more prevalent (Resnik). The availability of affordable housing can decrease with smart growth. Housing prices are found to increase within communities that have mixed mixed uses such as: sidewalks, recreation areas, and bike paths (SItko). Setting aside large amounts of undeveloped land can cause the cost of housing to increase. Property owners are restricted with the use of their land. Residential areas have laws that require sidewalks and bike paths which deprive homeowners of lawn space. Smart growth may disrupt existing communities; and noncommercial living areas may transform to commercial. This would increase the population and noise pollution. Low income communities are shown to be displaced in favor of smart-growth housing complexes and commercial development. Smart growth is argued by Resnik to worsen urban sprawl, traffic, congestion, and pollution. To evaluate this source of the information about smart growth is to first judge the layout of the information. It ordered by the sizing of housing in urban areas. It starts small (as in houses) to ending up at full communities. This reestablishes the author’s point of the negative effects of urbanisation and urban sprawl. There are no statistics to support Resnik’s claims to the cost of housing rising. All claims without data are theoretical and stand a chance to be refuted by those who argue of the positives of smart growth. A weakness to this source would be that it is very broad. The information came from a reputable source that is usually highly credible. There is no indication of where the author’s statements came from. There are some faults with the credibility of this source as there is no data or examples to support claims to housing prices rising.
Another source shows statistics of the differences of life satisfaction between urban and rural areas is from Europa; a credible source through their continuous updates in data as the year advances. Life satisfaction in the EU in 2013 was similar in three different urban areas. The satisfaction level was slightly greater in towns and suburbs (7.1) than in cities or rural areas (7.0) (Quality). Life satisfaction was lower in Member States that joined the EU in 2004 or more recently. A possible explanation for the lower satisfaction could be a reflection of low income levels and the rapid development of economic, social, and political circumstances of the Member States. People living in cities of Bulgaria, Croatia, and Portugal showed a higher life satisfaction than those living in towns, suburbs, and rural areas. However, in Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom, life satisfaction was reported to be higher in rural areas. The article has limited bias as it only reports the facts given. An evident weakness in the article would be the lack of supportive data to show the audience the degree of life satisfaction in rural versus urban areas. The author only spoke of the difference of life satisfaction without actually supporting his claims. One strength of the argument would be the suggestion as to why the life satisfaction in recently joined Member States was lower than in older Member States. This indicates that the author had made inferences as to why developing cities reported lower life satisfaction. The information is from an online European statistic source. The entirety of the website goes through different aspects of living to give an overall objective view to changes in the EU.
Prior to evaluating both sides of the proposed question, I was uncertain of which side to support. Both perspectives possess a strong argument as to whether or not urban areas should be incentivised. After evaluating each perspective, I came to the conclusion that there are more issues associated with smart growth exacerbating problems within urban areas than lessening them. Although not every aspect of urban and rural areas was covered in this paper, urban areas should not be incentivised. Further research would be needed to address the education and economic differences of these areas to either strengthen or weaken this side of the argument. The economic differences of the urban and rural areas is a substantial factor of this argument as it seems as if people move to urban areas for jobs, not the area itself. If there was a greater economic gain in rural areas, would more people consider moving away from urban areas? Would this then in turn lead to full urbanisation of rural areas; if so, lead to urbanisation everywhere?