Chapter 15 – Population and Urbanization
Until the Industrial Revolution, cities were incapable of supporting more than about 5
percent of the total societal population, largely because of the absence of agricultural
surpluses large enough to feed a big urban population. In addition, high mortality rates,
especially among children under 10 years, dictated that, even with high birth rates, urban
population growth was limited.
Demographic transition theory holds that the main factors underlying population dynamics
are industrialization and the growth of modern cultural values. In the preindustrial era,
both birth rates and death rates were high and population growth was therefor slow. In
the first stages of industrialization, death rates fell, so population growth was rapid. As
industrialization progressed and people’s values about having children changed, the birth
rate fell, resulting in slow growth again.
Malthus argued that while food supplies increase slowly, populations grow quickly.
Because of this presumed natural law, only war, pestilence and famine can keep human
population growth in check. In contrast, Marx argued that overpopulation is not a problem
of too many people. Instead, it is a problem of too much poverty. Marx said that if the
exploitation of workers under capitalism is ended, then poverty will disappear along with
the overpopulation problem.
The best-known urban-growth model in the social sciences is Ernest Burgess’s concentric-
zone scheme in which the expansion of cities is conceptualized as a successive series of
rings, each of which segregates a distinct resident population and type of land use. Other,
more recent models favor patterns of urban growth resembling pie-shaped wedges that
develop along transportation routes or multiple nodes of economic activity, each with its
In contrast to the rise of the city in Western Europe and North America, cities of the South
have grown at a much faster rate than the industrial economy. The resulting “over
urbanization” has accelerated problems of poverty and unemployment, which are rooted in
basic structural inequalities and uneven development.
The corporate city of the 1950s and 1960s was the product of an urban-growth machine in
which a coalition of politicians, planners, real-estate developers, business people, and other
interest groups joined forces to engineer economic development and progress. The main
products of this alliance were:
a) The corporate suburbs
b) Shopping centers
c) Suburban industrial parks
d) Downtown office towers
e) High-rise apartment buildings
Three theories, structural, selective migration, and class and life-cycle stage have been
proposed to explain the relationship between suburban residence and lifestyle patterns.