Recently public debates have emphasized the importance of going beyond gross domestic product (GDP) as the single measure of development in a region and focusing to look at a multitude of sound well-being indicators, accounting for the different dimensions of people’s lives. Building a solid foundation of knowledge about people, their activities, well-being, and their interactions with the environment are necessary to design effective policies. This requires an understanding of the socioeconomic conditions that exist in cities and in urban and rural areas as highlighted by  (UN Habitat, 2020).

Urbanization is a phenomenon that impacts economies, societies, cultures, and the environment. Not only is there a growing level of interest in the rapid growth and shape of urban developments, but also in the linkages that exist between individual cities and between urban and rural areas.

Cities and big metropolitan areas experience considerable problems in terms of sustainable urban growth while also benefiting from the economics of agglomeration, industrial clustering, and innovation.

Rural areas are essentially different from metropolitan areas and intrinsically significant and require particular actions and strategies to improve the lives of their residents. Malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty, a lack of proper health and education facilities, a lack of access to other essential infrastructure, and underutilization of labor are many such issues that rural communities deal in a regular basis. Rural areas face significant difficulties because of their distinct characteristics. These include, among other things, the dispersion of rural populations, topographical features (terrain and landscapes) that act as a barrier to building infrastructure effectively, excessive reliance on the agricultural sector, and ensuring the protection of the environment and natural resources.

Between 1975 to 2015, the number of cities doubled approximately from 5000-10000. The growth in the number of cities is linked to the income of the country. Low-income countries experienced the highest growth in the number of cities growing triple. Compared to doubling in middle-income countries. And followed by high-income countries which saw a 50% increase.

The population share by a degree of urbanization varies by income group. The population density in low-income nations is highest in rural areas and lowest in urban areas. Whereas, high-income countries have a significantly higher share of the population in the cities and their commuting zones compared to middle-income countries.

Source: Inforegio – Cities in the World: A New Perspective on Urbanisation (

The broad parameters that constitute an important aspect of quality of life in analyzing the well-being of people across the degree of urbanization i.e. along cities, towns and semi-dense areas, and rural areas are:

Income, economic opportunities, and employment:

The overwhelming evidence from middle-income and developing countries suggests that cities offer higher real incomes than rural areas. Also, in comparison to rural areas, residents and households in cities, towns and semi-dense areas (TSAs) enjoy much higher incomes and far higher income levels. The average household income in TSAs is over 80% higher than it is in rural regions.

While self-employment is more common in rural regions than in cities, city dwellers work for employers more frequently. The lure of more and various career opportunities and higher income supports the attractiveness of cities, which promise to provide greater economic and social mobility.

Educational attainment and schooling:

Education is an important determinant for socio-economic mobility as it is an effective factor in enabling people to find employment, contribute to the economy and move up the socio-economic ladder in one’s society.

Around the world, educational attainment is significantly higher in cities than in towns and semi-dense areas, which in turn is higher than in rural areas.

Health outcomes and access to healthcare:

Compared to persons in TSAs and cities, residents of rural areas reported more suffering from health issues that restrict them from engaging in activities typical of people their age. In contrast to the two regions mentioned above, people who live in cities are much less likely to have health problems. Significant differences in satisfaction with health services across levels of urbanization are not present, showing the influence of expectations on perception metrics.

While there are many work and service opportunities available to city dwellers, there are also certain health concerns and dangers that are more prevalent in metropolitan settings. Cities are frequently linked to air pollution, inactivity, and an abundance of bad food, all of which have a negative impact on health in a variety of ways.

Access to services and utilities:

There are big differences between cities and rural areas when it comes to having electricity, piped water, and safe drinking water.

Lower access to infrastructure and modern technology in rural areas is a pressing issue due to its relevance to existing policies. Disparities in accessibility are even more striking in terms of digital infrastructure and modern technology, more residents in cities and TSAs have Internet access than in rural areas.

Gaps by the degree of urbanization in low-income countries also exist with respect to mobile phones, residents in rural areas have a low share of gadgets than TSAs and city dwellers.

Exposure to crime & violence:

People’s daily lives are directly affected by crime, violence, and attitudes toward women, which in turn affects their quality of life. Like health outcomes, these important aspects of well-being vary a lot depending on the development of a country. Residents in cities are most exposed to crime and violence.


In general, city dwellers have better financial situations. The highest educational achievement is also among city dwellers, followed by those in towns and semi-dense locations. Cities and towns and semi-dense areas (TSAs) perform better than rural areas in various aspects of health. However, urban diseases like obesity, stress, or air pollution are also common in cities. There is a distinct urban gradient in terms of access to public infrastructure, new technology, and public utilities; the more densely populated the place, the better such access tends to be. However, in cities, crime and security are bigger problems.

The research on these important well-being factors may provide an explanation for why quality of life varies depending on how urbanized a region is and why cities provide citizens with the highest quality of life.


This article is based on Reports: Applying the Degree of Urbanisation: A Methodological Manual to Define Cities, Towns and Rural Areas for International Comparisons | en | OECD

Inforegio – Cities in the World: A New Perspective on Urbanisation (

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