Do more people live in urban or rural areas? 1500-2050

Our World in Data

To construct the long run urbanization series we began with the UN World Urbanization Prospects database covering the period from 1950 to 2050.

Then we extended the series backwards using additional data sources including the US Census Bureau, Bairoch (1988), Kuroda (1984), HYDE 3.1 (2010), and De Vries (1984) to arrive at the longest single series possible for each country and region included. For further information on the source used for particular observations by country-year, see the following documentation.

To calculate the absolute rural and urban populations, we have multiplied the rural and urban percentages by the historic population series published by Gapminder until 1949 and extended using the UN Population Division data from 1950 to 2016. The long run ‘Gapminder + UN Population’ population series is available here.

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