Unit 5: Consequences of Urbanization
Cities draw migrants with the promise of higher living standards. City residents have greater access to health care, more employment and opportunity and access to more social and cultural events. Previous units pointed out that cities have been at the center of civilizations and continue to be the engines of social and economic growth.
For all the relative advantages of city life, however, widespread poverty casts a shadow over the urban future. A vast number of people in urban areas are threatened by homelessness, health hazards and violence among other things. These may affect a portion of the urban population directly, but their indirect effects are felt by the whole society.
Residents of urban areas are at risk from pollution and other health hazards. Pollution from cars, the burning of fossil fuels and industry cause illnesses such as respiratory infections and lead poisoning.
Homelessness is a growing problem in cities all over the world. In addition, there is the problem of poor housing. Estimates of the world's homeless population plus those living in poor housing can reach a figure of 1 billion people. People whoare homeless or live in poor housing are constantly threatened by illnesses and have a much lower life expectancy than other portions of the population.
Crime and violence are other, specifically urban, problems that are not limited to one region of the world alone. Urban violence has been growing by about 3 to 5 percent a year over the last two decades. Poverty and social disintegration are cited as the causes of urban crime and violence.
These are not problems that must exist simply because cities exist. They are often the results of poor income distribution (a few people with high incomes, many people with low incomes) and bad policy. They can be overcome and in many places they have been overcome.