Urban Geography

The Persistent Decline in Urban Densities: Global and Historical Evidence of ‘Sprawl’

Using satellite imagery, census data and historical maps, we report on density variation among cities the world over. We find significant differences in the average population density in the built-up areas of a global sample of 120 cities: In 2000, average density was 28±5 persons per hectare in cities in land-rich developed countries, 70±8 in cities in other developed countries, and 135±11 in cities in developing countries.

Geography of Growth: Spatial Economics and Competitiveness

Economists have emphasized the importance of geography in growth and competitiveness, yet rarely has there been literature that identifies the cause of growth in some cities but not in others. Why was the city of Bangalore more attractive for industries than Karachi? What are the defining characteristics of successful cities? This book seeks to answer these questions through multiple consultations with leading experts and in-depth research on urban centers.

A Planet of Cities: Urban Land Cover Estimates and Projections for All Countries, 2000-2050

We created a new data set comprising the universe of all 3,649 named metropolitan agglomerations and cities that had populations in excess of 100,000 in the year 2000, their populations in that year, and their built-up area identified in the MOD500 map, currently the best satellite-based global map of urban land cover. 

The Fragmentation of Urban Footprints: Global Evidence of Sprawl, 1990-2000


Cities the world over are highly fragmented. The fragmentation of the built-up area cities by the open spaces interpenetrating them is a key attribute of urban-sprawl, and sprawl as fragmentation, as distinct from sprawl as lower-density development, is now a universal feature of cities. Using satellite images and census data for 1990 and 2000 for a global sample of 120 cities, we find that cities typically contain or disturb vast quantities of open spaces, equal in area, on average, to their built-up areas. 


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