The delicate process of selecting human demographics

Seoul, South Korea 2008. Creative Commons Licence
Seoul, South Korea 2008. Creative Commons Licence

Regarding the study of human settlements, one interrogation is shared among the endless publications that analyze human agglomerations, this primal question is: what does “the urban” mean? Definitions about “the urban” have been formulated concerning variables such as function, size, context, area, history, culture, economic development, international impact, and so on.

Analyzing territories in terms of their stable population is a basic tool for interpreting the degree of urban complexity; therefore, the complexity of the infrastructure and economic performance of territories. Demographics are important, however, it is important to understand the ambiguous perceptions of populations when learning the size of the human settlements:

“Megalopolis in Ancient Greece had a population of 40,000 in 370 BC. As a polis of 300,000 inhabitants, Athens in 432 BC was one-thirtieth the size of Greater London or one-thirty-eighth of New York City in terms of population in the 1980’s. There was also Rome, the first giant city in world history with around 1.4 million inhabitants which was twice or thrice the record set by Patna 300 years earlier or Babylon 150 years before that and probably bigger than any city that would follow for the next 700 years. These cities were backed up by complex systems of administration, food supplies, traffic, water and a waste disposal system. After that, things settled down for a bit with Constantinople in the Middle Ages and Beijing in the early modern period. London joined the scene just after the 1800s, setting the precedent of rapid urban development, followed by cities in North America and Australasia in the nineteenth century and those in the developing world in the twentieth century […] London and New York retained some kind of global pre-eminence into the 1950s, until the growth of Western cities like Los Angeles and other great cities of the developing world rapidly overtook them. Since then, propelled by high rates of natural increase and internal migration, many cities in this group have grown to number amongst the world’s largest.”[1]

Nowadays metropolitan areas have reached significant numbers of stable populations: Tokyo and Seoul have reached nearly 30 million people; Delhi, Sao Paulo, Mexico City and New York are hosting about 20 million each, and Buenos Aires, Paris and Los Angeles accommodate around 10 million citizens. It could be argued that the urban paradigms are switching; as Bujis, Tan and Tunas have stated, the distinctions of urban and rural dichotomy are fading; due to increasing scale, the typical distinction between the city and the countryside is becoming meaningless.[1]

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