Population density and urbanization

The United Nations Statistics Division collects, compiles and disseminates data from national statistical offices on population density and urbanization through the Demographic Yearbook data collection system. A set of tables used in this collection system includes rural/urban breakdowns. Because of significant national differences (PDF 95 KB), there is no internationally agreed upon definition of urban and rural that would be applicable to all countries or even to all countries within a region.

A number of tables presented in the Demographic Yearbook provide disaggregated statistics by urban and rural breakdown. In addition, data on population of capital cities and cities of 100,000 and more inhabitants are also available.

The United Nations Population Division uses these data as input for estimating urbanization. Those estimates are presented in World Urbanization Prospects.

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) looks at urbanization from a different angle. It collects, collates, analyses and reports data on national, urban/rural and city level in order to monitor human settlement conditions and trends. UN-HABITAT publishes and disseminates data through the Compendium of Human Settlement Statistics, Statistical Annex to the Global report and the State of the World’s Cities Report 2001.