Urban Population

Population living in urban areas as defined by national statistical offices

  • Source: UNPD/World Bank Group

The Urban Population data, released by the UN Population Division and distributed by the World Bank Group, refer to people around the world living in urban areas as defined by national statistical offices. The indicator is calculated using World Bank Group population estimates and urban ratios from the UN World Urbanization Prospects from 1960 through 2016. Percentages urban are the numbers of persons residing in an area defined as ''urban'' per 100 total population. They are calculated by the Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Particular caution should be used in interpreting the figures for percentage urban for different countries. Countries differ in the way they classify population as "urban" or "rural." The population of a city or metropolitan area depends on the boundaries chosen. Resource Watch shows only a subset of the data set. For access to the full data set and additional information, see the Learn More link.

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Urban population (% of total)


Aggregation of urban and rural population may not add up to total population because of different country coverage. There is no consistent and universally accepted standard for distinguishing urban from rural areas, in part because of the wide variety of situations across countries. Most countries use an urban classification related to the size or characteristics of settlements. Some define urban areas based on the presence of certain infrastructure and services. And other countries designate urban areas based on administrative arrangements. Because of national differences in the characteristics that distinguish urban from rural areas, the distinction between urban and rural population is not amenable to a single definition that would apply to all countries. Estimates of the world's urban population would change significantly if China, India, and a few other populous nations were to change their definition of urban centers. Because the estimates of city and metropolitan area are based on national definitions of what constitutes a city or metropolitan area, cross-country comparisons should be made with caution.

Suggested citation

World Bank Group. 2016. "Urban Population (% of Total)." http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL.IN.ZS. Accessed through Resource Watch, (date). www.resourcewatch.org.


United Nations Population Division (UNPD)
World Bank Group

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