What Are the Causes of Urbanization in Poor Countries?

by Helen Fitzgerald - Updated September 26, 2017
The prospects of a better life in the cities lure villagers in, even though many end up in slums.

The proportion of the world’s population living in urban areas, which was less than 5 percent in 1800, increased to 47 percent by 2000 and is expected to reach 65 percent by 2030, according to a 2000 United Nations report. Urbanization is the shift of populace from a rural to an urban society. In developing countries, the reasons for people leaving rural areas and moving to urban areas varies from country to country, but in many cases it is creating slums of fringe dwellers unable to find suitable employment.

Political Causes

During times of political unrest, families are forced to leave their rural farming villages, and they migrate to the urban areas in search of shelter, food and employment. When large numbers of people are driven from their rural villages, especially in war-ravaged countries, the cities become saturated, and slums start to grow on the outskirts of the cities.

Economic Causes

Poverty in rural areas, due to large companies creating commercial farms and small farmers finding it harder and harder to make a living, forces people to move to the urban areas in search of better employment opportunities. The rise of industry in developing countries has provided more job opportunities in urban areas, and cities have increased significantly in size due to this.

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Education

Opportunities for education at universities and technical colleges draw young people to the urban centers, where they hope to provide better prospects for the future for themselves and their families. Urban centers in developing countries have become hubs of education and training, as they are also in developed countries.

Natural Population Increase

There has been a natural increase of population in many developing countries due to improved medical care, immunization programs, better sanitation and more widespread education. Death rates have decreased, and there are fewer infant deaths, resulting in population growth. As populations grow so does the urban sprawl. As the cities become overcrowded with not enough employment to go around, more and more people live in substandard housing.

Environmental Degradation

When the natural habitat of farming families is destroyed due to deforestation, mining or industrial expansion, they are forced to find somewhere else to live. Often small amounts of compensation from logging and mining companies provide the funds for families to move to urban areas, but there is no guarantee of work in the cities, and many families move there and are forced into poverty because they cannot find enough work.

Social Causes

Many young people migrate to urban centers in search of lifestyle changes and with the desire to become associated with the club scenes in large cities. Such scenes provide employment opportunities, but they sadly also attract gambling and crime syndicates to develop.

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