How Many Cities Are in the World? A New Way to Count

Until recently, there wasn’t any standard definition of a city. Now researchers know how many cities are in the world and can finally make comparisons across countries and continents.

(Photo by Abdul Rahman / CC BY 2.0)

How many cities are in the world? The answer has real consequences for our planet. 

Efficient city living can be among the best ways to use our energy and resources. And yet as cities get larger, arguments persist over what’s appropriate zoning or the best level of density. That’s partly why researchers are thrilled to finally have a standardized definition of a city. Now they can analyze where success stories are real. 

In this episode of the podcast, Next City Executive Director Lucas Grindley talks with correspondent Gregory Scruggs about his reporting on a count that puts ​​the world’s total number of cities at 10,000. Plus, we delve into his coverage of how new satellite imagery makes understanding density clearer than ever.

We also meet Lewis Dijkstra, the European Commission’s lead researcher on the project. He explains the benefits of megacities no longer being lumped together with towns. 

“We created this definition to help cities learn from each other,” says Dijkstra. “Because we have this definition and this boundary, we can now say, OK, in which city is it easier to walk to a bus stop or a tram stop? And why is that easier? What makes it easier? In what cities can you easily walk to a green space? And these are sustainable development goals — indicators with harmonized definitions of how to calculate that — but now we also have a harmonized definition for the boundaries. So a city in Africa can compare itself to a city in Asia or Latin America or Europe. And so that really opens a lot of doors.”

Listen to this episode below or subscribe to Next City’s podcast on Apple, Spotify or Goodpods.

Like what you’re reading? Get a browser notification whenever we post a new story. You’re signed-up for browser notifications of new stories. No longer want to be notified? Unsubscribe.
Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×
has donated ! Thank you 🎉