Lesson 801 – What’s a city?

There is currently no universal definition of what ‘urban’ means. Countries adopt very different definitions of urbanization. Not only do the thresholds of urban versus rural vary, but the types of metrics used also differ. Some countries use minimum population thresholds, others use population density, infrastructure development, employment type, or simply the population of pre-defined cities.

Even if we could define a single metric to use — such as a minimum population threshold in a settlement — countries adopt very different threshold levels. In the chart below we have mapped the minimum population threshold for countries who adopt this within their definition of ‘urban’. 2000 and 5000 inhabitants were jointly the most frequently-adopted threshold. However, the variation across countries was vast. Sweden and Denmark set this threshold at only 200 inhabitants; Japan at 50,000

The European Commission (EC) has applied a universal definition of settlements across all countries. In order to be considered an urban centre the population must be at least 50,000 plus a population density of 1500 people per square kilometre. According to the EC an urban cluster must have a minimum of 5,000 inhabitants plus a population density of at least 300 people per square kilometre and the rural cluster must have fewer than 5,000 inhabitants.


➡️ El poder de las ciudades globales

➡️ Una ciudad, dos mundos

➡️ Las ciudades

➡️ El espacio urbano: un análisis general

➡️ Megalópolis, los espacios urbanos más grandes del mundo