In the last post, we noted Los Angeles was the fastest-growing city in the US at the end of the 19th century, growing nearly 10% yearly between 1880 and 1930. This made me wonder what the landscape of city growth rates looks like. How fast were other US cities growing at the same time, or before and after that? How does a 10% annual growth rate compare to other fast-growing cities around the world? How fast is it
Dongguan is right next to Shenzhen (it's the next city over as you travel North from Hong Kong), so in some sense it's really only one metro there that's experienced such meteoric growth (the historic growth of both is tied to the special economic zone there and the close proximity to Hong Kong).
Great info and sourcing, as usual, but a bit of extra input re LA seems necessary. The history of the city, county and region are essentially the same: a pattern of slow early settlement in the colonial period with a big bump when rail service started in the 1870s/1880s. Orange County split from LA county back then, but has since become a suburban satellite. Meanwhile LA County always included numerous smaller cities that did the same. Are they included in the data? It’s hard to tell; they are basically contiguous yet also separate entities. In any case LA, it’s LA County suburbs and OC are mostly situated on a largely open coastal plain. It includes Long Beach (500,000+) and Santa Ana (similar size), among others. The most recent historically significant big bump coincided with WWII and the resulting housing shortage was acute and lingered into the ‘50s - the Bush family actually lived in public housing in Compton for a short time then. Growth and sprawl continued apace for decades thereafter, eventually breaching the topographic confines of the plain and adjacent San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys and spilling over into the Mojave Desert. It has slowed considerably but isn’t really over yet; a major housing development now sits astride the freeway path to Palm Springs where recently there was only arid scrubland.
Reminds me of the work of Geoffrey West, Luis Bettencourt, et. al. on city scaling.
Europe's slow urban growth during the last 75 years reflects its geo-demographic head start on the rest of the world. By 1950, Europe already had completed, more or less, its modern demographic transition to low fertility rates and slow/zero overall population growth. Also, its modern mass urbanization largely occurred prior to 1950, with the changes of the 20th century's second half largely tied to post-war recovery and, for prominent global cities such as London, a new phase of renewed growth that nonetheless was much slower than that experienced during the industrial revolution of the 19th century. For most of the world beyond Europe, much of the modern demographic transition and mass urbanization remained to be achieved post-1950, and we have seen this reflected in the geography of the world's growing roster of megacities (10+ million people), which are mostly located in various regions of Asia, the Americas, and looking ahead, Africa.
While you have done a good job, Brian, of highlighting those urban regions that have experienced periods of truly phenomenal growth of 10% or more annually, note that growth rates of 0-5% are not universally "slow" by most perspectives. A compound annual growth rate of 3%, for example, is substantially different than 1%. This is perhaps best illustrated via the concept of doubling time:
1% annual growth doubles in 70 years
2% = 35 years
3% = 23 years
4% = 18 years
5% = 14 years
Key thing with Europe is that its urbanisation was earlier than elsewhere. I’d be keen to see Europe for 1500-1950. Eg London in 1550-1700 seems to have had one of the highest large city growth rates that had then ever been seen (not counting the forced relocation of large empires’ capital cities), from 50k to 575k.
Great post. Few other comments here on Chinas urbanization strategy. Part of that strategy included expanding the geographic borders of cities, which meant they absorbed neighboring populations automatically. This is true of early US cities too - they annexed bordering towns/suburbs. Chicago is a good example. Border expansion may be more common in smaller/younger cities and contribute to the law of large numbers growth slowdown you observe.
Appreciate the effort that went into the data visualization and interpretation for this post! Great to see the trends marked so clearly.
The difference is that China is doing catch-up growth and it's got a lot to catch up on. For example the first Newcomen steam engine is estimated to have an efficiency of about 0.5%, modern gas turbines can be over 50%. The Chinese are jumping to, or close to, today's technological frontier, the Brits in the 18th century couldn't do that because it hadn't been invented. Ditto the USA and continental Europe in the 19th century. So the transition from agriculture to industry and services in cities was slower, so the population movement was slower.
The growth rate vs population chart for US cities can use some details. It shows Tucson population at under 100K and Phoenix under 1M. Are these the beginning populations? And over what range of dates? Tucson is now over 540K and Phoenix over 1.6M.
China's data is self reported. Is the birth rate high enough to account for it
Aren't there a few factors?
Area ~ r^2
Areal density ~ N/r^2
Volume ~ r^2 x 0.01r (average height)
Volume density Vd/N
Population in large modern cities like Manhattan, Shanghai, others that are are bounded grow upward. Population centers where area is unbounded grow outward in radius. LA, NYC metro, Mexico City
Also note that China intentionally drove urbanization as a strategy for development and poverty reduction
Istanbul is in Europe