The degree of urbanisation has been applied to a new, free global population grid. This definition has not been applied to all the municipalities of the globe as their boundaries are not available.

This population grid has been created by the Joint Research Centre by combing their data on built-up areas (global human settlement layer) with fine scale population data from national censuses collected by CIESIN at Columbia University. An updated and improved population grid will be published in 2018.

The population share in urban areas (cities, towns and suburbs) is similar to the share reported to the UN Population Division and published in their World Urbanization Prospects for Europe, Latin America, North America and Oceania. But it is very different for Africa and Asia. Whereas the national definitions used in the World Urbanization Prospects places these continents at less than 50% urban, these draft results for the degree of urbanisation places them at more than 80% urban.


These differences may be caused by the wide variety in population threshold used to distinguish urban from rural in national definitions. In some countries, this definition may not have been updated in the recent decades. Last but not least, some countries do not report a definition and may rely only on a list of places with an assigned city status.

Some of the differences may also be due to inaccuracies in the population data or the detection of built-up areas. A new version of this grid to be published in 2018 aims to reduce the instances of over and under-detection of built-up areas, but inaccuracies in the population data are likely to remain.

An interactive map with the classification for 1975, 1990, 2000 and 2015 can be found here

More information on these draft global results can be found in:

The State of European Cities Report, 2016

The Atlas of the Human Planet 2016