One of the things I’ve enjoyed so far in creating The Map Den, is being able to share some of the latest and interesting pieces of work and tips coming out of the GIS and mapping industry. The ‘science of where‘ community is alive and strong. However, it’s time I did some original mapping content myself. Today I’m starting simple, but nonetheless importantly, looking at global urban and rural population increases.

Urban Population Change 2010-2015

Created through static maps created in ArcGIS and joining with population data from United Nations between 2010-2015, these maps investigate the continuing phenomenon of global population increase and the urban to rural shift. We can see from the urban map the general increase in urban population, particularly dramatic in Africa and Asia, similar to rocketing growth experienced in ‘Western’ industrialising countries around the industrial revolution. A stark example is you compare China’s urban population boom compared to sharp rural population decrease, where rural poverty and labour surplus have driven these trends (see more here and here)

Interesting to note are where urban population has decreased, particularly in post-Soviet Eastern Europe. Migration to western countries for various reasons have been a factor, as well as a post-Soviet trend for lowering birth rates (see more here and a detailed European rural-urban map here).

Rural Population Change 2010-2015

Highly noticeable on both maps are urban and rural increases in Sub-Saharan Africa, reflecting probable increases in living conditions and improvements in child mortality (i.e. less of this). However, despite, some ‘escape to the country’ in ‘Western’ countries, generally there is a global trend outside of Africa towards rural population decrease, a continuing post-industrial trend. Besides employment and social pull factors towards the ‘city’, relative rural poverty is an often overlooked factor in this trend. While I have lived in an urban area all my life, the focus of my undergraduate dissertation investigated the impacts of bank closures and online banking in rural areas, and one of the findings was that often rural areas are at the back of queue for services, whether it be broadband, social, economic etc.

The (often British) stereotype of the idyllic rural idyll is flawed, especially in particular regions or countries (see more here), with closures disproportionately hitting rural areas and a focus on funding in urban areas. Particularly noticeable on the rural change map is the rural decrease in  France and Japan, where in the latter of these there is an ageing population with a dramatic fall in birth rates are contributors too.

Producing and investigating these maps are interesting, but it importantly shows that generally we are still in an urbanizing age, where differing stages of socio-economic ‘development’ (what do we define as ‘development?), and population trends influence geopolitics in many ways from resource pressures to conflicts.

Happy Mapping,


Credits: United Nations Statistics, The Guardian, Reuters, Washington Post, Japan Times


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