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A 3D Look at Shifting Urban Populations

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Cities are constantly evolving, and urban populations respond to a number of push–pull factors, including economic opportunity, lifestyle trends, land values, and natural disasters.

Beyond the headlines and raw census numbers, it can be difficult to take population patterns into perspective. The talented team over at The Pudding has created an amazing, granular map that shows these patterns as 3D stacks.

Our focus today will be on growth between 1990 and 2015, as urban settlement patterns across Canada and the U.S. shifted dramatically over this relatively short timeframe. Let’s take a look.

Growing Cities

One of the most dramatic examples of robust growth is Toronto.

Canada’s largest city nearly doubled its population since 1990, and growth was distributed throughout the region. This city is a rare example of both extra-urban and downtown residential growth.

toronto map high growth

vancouver seattle high growth map

Vancouver is another Canadian city with a swelling urban population base. The city’s recent population growth has been heavily concentrated along transit lines and the downtown core, resulting in a “spiky” visualization which resembles the condo towers now dotting the city’s skyline.

Nearby, Seattle has added over a million people to its population since 1990. With one of the strongest economies in the country, it’s unlikely that momentum will slow any time soon.

Growing Suburbs

Only recently have some cities begun to see urban residential construction. For much of the ’90s and ’00s, America’s growth was in peripheral suburbs, where land was plentiful and cheap.

dallas fort worth growth map
atlanta population map

This sprawl effect is particularly easy to spot in the Texas Triangle – which encompasses the cities of San Antonio, Austin, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Houston – and Atlanta.

los angeles orange county growth

While Los Angeles did see a modest amount of growth over the past 25 years, it was the Inland Empire – anchored by San Bernardino and Riverside – that saw the most dramatic population growth in the region. The construction boom is only intensifying. The region added 50,000 new residents between 2016 and 2017.

Boomtowns

fort mac gillette map growth

In general, smaller towns either lost population or remained relatively static. The exception is in places where resource extraction caused a growth spurt. Two prime examples are in Gillette, Wyoming, and Fort McMurray, Alberta. In the latter town, oil sands extraction added tens of thousands of new residents in a short amount of time.

Mixed growth and Static Cities

Chicago experienced one of the most striking growth patterns over the past 25 years. The contrast between urban decline and growth in the exurbs is clearly revealed in this visualization.

chicago mixed growth map

Contrast is also clear when looking at divergent patterns of Washington D.C. and Baltimore. The nation’s capital and surrounding areas have been growing steadily in recent years, whereas the neighboring city’s population is declining towards a 100-year low.

washington dc growth baltimore decline

Static Cities

While a number of urban areas experienced dramatic shifts in the last couple of decades, some cities sidestepped wild population swings. For example, much of Philadelphia’s population pattern remains similar to what it was in 1990.

philly static population map
scranton springfield static population

Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Springfield, Massachusetts, are examples of smaller cities that remained in stasis.

Decline and Disaster

A number of cities in America’s “Rust Belt” experienced declining populations. The visualizations of cities like Cleveland and Detroit show just how pronounced the exodus was.

cleveland population decline map
Detroit population decline map

The shrinking tax base and glut of vacant homes is causing a number of problems in the two cities, and with mixed economic prospects, it’s unclear what the next 25 years will bring in terms of population changes.

Often, population declines are the result of economic reasons such as a decline in manufacturing or general stagnation. On occasion though, the raw power of nature changes the course of a city’s history. This is the case in New Orleans, were Hurricane Katrina’s legacy is clearly seen in this visualization.

new orleans population map

New Orleans did recover in the years after the hurricane. However, as of 2015, the city was still far below its pre-Katrina population. Resettlement has been patchy as well, which is reflected in the towering red peaks of the population map.

To explore your city or other parts of the world, visit The Pudding’s interactive map.

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Cities

The 8 Ways Urban Demographics are Changing

These pivotal trends show how urban demographics are aiding in the transition to a very different economic and investment landscape.

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The 8 Ways Urban Demographics are Changing

Cities are what keep the global economic machine humming.

Over 80% of the world’s economic output is derived from activities in cities – and more specifically, it’s estimated that 60% of GDP growth occurs in just the top 600 urban centers.

Given the above, it’s fair to say that the destiny of humankind is directly linked to what happens in major cities. Further, how urbanization plays out over time could end up having a significant ripple effect on the economy, and we should pay close attention to such trends.

Urbanization 2.0

Today’s infographic comes to us from Raconteur, and it showcases eight different ways that urban demographics are evolving.

Below we will summarize the changes, along with potential impacts on the economy:

1. A Higher Percentage of Urban Dwellers

Between 1950 and 2018, we went from 30% to 55% of the world’s population living in cities. This has been driven largely by today’s middle and high income economies in places like North America, South America, Europe, and Japan.

The next stage of urbanization will see us move to 68% – more than two-thirds of the world’s population – living in these urban conglomerations. It will be driven by countries in developing markets, creating a potent investing megatrend along the way.

2. The Countries Driving Growth

It’s estimated that three countries will combine for 35% of all urban population growth.

RankCountryGrowth in Urban Population (2018-2050)% of Global Urban Growth
World860 million people35%
#1India416 million people17%
#2China255 million people10%
#3Nigeria189 million people8%

In total, there will be 2.5 billion more urban dwellers in 2050 than there are today. Many of these people will experience rising incomes in cities, increasing the global middle class to an unprecedented size.

3. Peaking Rural Populations

On the flipside, it appears the world’s rural population has nearly flatlined, with anticipation that it will peak in absolute terms in the next couple of years. Rural populations have been slowly growing since 1950 until this point.

4. The Rise of Megacities

There will be 43 megacities by the year 2050, which is more than quadruple the amount that existed back in 1950.

The changing geography of the world’s megacities will be one of the major forces that shapes the future of the global economy and accompanying investment trends.

5. New Population Centers

By 2050, more than 70% of the world’s urban population will live in Asia or Africa. Meanwhile, North America and Europe will combine for closer to 15% of that total.

6. De-Urbanization

The role of de-urbanization is often downplayed or forgot about when discussing urban demographics, but it is an interesting issue.

Factors such as falling fertility rates, economic contraction, and natural disasters are actually shrinking the size of some cities. In fact, McKinsey predicts that 17% of cities in developed regions will see a drop in population between 2015-2025.

7. Disparities in Urban Growth

The rate for urban population growth is actually trending down across all types of economies – however, these rates come from very different starting points.

High income countries are currently averaging growth of less than 1% per year, and this will continue to decline to below 0.5% per year by 2050. Over the same time period, low income nations will go from 4% to 3% per year.

8. Changes in Average Age

The age distributions in large cities within developed nations will begin to skew older, something we’ve shown previously when looking at the median age of every continent.

The biggest impact here may be felt on dependency ratios in the workforce. With a smaller pipeline of new workforce entrants and a burgeoning population of seniors, this changing ratio is one of the most significant stories impacting urban demographics.

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The Hydrogen City: How Hydrogen Can Help to Achieve Zero Emissions

Cities are drivers of growth and prosperity, but also the main contributors of pollution. Can hydrogen fuel the growth of cities with clean power?

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In the modern context, cities create somewhat of a paradox.

While cities are the main drivers for improving the lives of people and entire nations, they also tend to be the main contributors of pollution and CO2 emissions.

How can we encourage this growth, while also making city energy use sustainable?

Resolving the Paradox

Today’s infographic comes to us from the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and it outlines hydrogen technology as a sustainable fuel for keeping urban economic engines running effectively for the future.

The Hydrogen City: How Hydrogen Can Help to Achieve Zero Emissions

The Urban Economic Engine

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and according to U.N. estimates, that number will grow to 6.7 billion by 2050 – or about 68% of the global population.

Simultaneously, it is projected that developing economies such as India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa will drive global growth.

Development leads to urbanization which leads to increased economic activity:

The difficulty in this will be achieving a balance between growth and sustainability.

Currently, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions to produce 80% of global GDP.

Further, it’s projected by the McKinsey Global Institute that the economic output of the 600 largest cities and urban regions globally could grow $30 trillion by the year 2050, comprising for two-thirds of all economic growth.

With this growth will come increased demand for energy and C02 emissions.

The Hydrogen Fueled City

Hydrogen, along with fuel cell technology, may provide a flexible energy solution that could replace the many ways fossils fuels are used today for heat, power, and transportation.

When used, it creates water vapor and oxygen, instead of harmful smog in congested urban areas.

According to the Hydrogen Council, by 2050, hydrogen could each year generate:

  • 1,500 TWh of electricity
  • 10% of the heat and power required by households
  • Power for a fleet of 400 million cars

The infrastructure requirements for hydrogen make it easy to distribute at scale. Meanwhile, for heat and power, low concentrations of hydrogen can be blended into natural gas networks with ease.

Hydrogen can play a role in improving the resilience of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, by being an energy carrier. By taking surplus electricity to generate hydrogen through electrolysis, energy can be stored for later use.

In short, hydrogen has the potential to provide the clean energy needed to keep cities running and growing while working towards zero emissions.

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