This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, October 18, 2013


An article published today in the international edition of the New York Times talks about the phenomenon of "rurbanization" in India. I admit that I had never heard the term used, and my computer didn't like it, either, since it immediately corrected the spelling to "urbanization." The situation in India is described as follows:
The 2011 census saw the unprecedented reclassification of 2,774 rural settlements – many, like Agraula, on the cusp of megacities — into “census towns,” for a total of 3,894. These towns are considered urban for census purposes because they meet three criteria: their population exceeds 5,000, population density is above 400 people per square kilometer, and more than 75 percent of the male workforce is employed outside of agriculture. The size of this category grew more in the last decade than it had in the entire 20th century.
Such reclassification alone accounted for almost a third of the increase in India’s officially recognized urban population since 2001. For the first time since independence, India’s urban population grew more in a decade – adding 91 million people since 2001 for a total of 377 million in 2011 — than its rural population, which grew 90.5 million, for a total of 833 million.
A quick Google search showed that the term "rurbanization" has been around a long time, but I don't personally care for it. The process is really part of urbanization because rural places are transitioning to urban characteristics, whereas "rurbanization" implies to me that urban places are taking on rural characteristics, which rarely happens (except perhaps in Detroit, where abandoned urban property has reverted to its natural state). My colleagues and I currently have funding from NASA to use satellite imagery along with census and survey data to better understand the transition of rural places to urban places--part of a gradient or continuum from completely rural to completely urban. I don't think that we are going to relabel our research as focusing on "rurbanization".  On the other hand, the transition from rural to urban uses, created by urban sprawl all over the world, is a huge issue because these are among the places that will absorb a huge fraction of the global increase in population over the next few decades. For this reason alone, we need to improve our knowledge of what's happening there.

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