A city is a relatively large, dense, permanent, heterogeneous, and politically autonomous settlement whose population engages in a range of nonagricultural occupations. Definitions of cities and their associated phenomena vary by time and place, and by population size, area, and function (Shryock, Siegel, and associates 1976, pp. 85-104). The city is often defined in terms of administrative area, which may be larger than, smaller than, or equal to the area of relatively dense settlement that comprises what is otherwise known as the city proper. The suburb is a less dense but permanent settlement that is located outside the city proper and contains populations that usually have social and economic ties to the city.


Definitions of urban vary by nation; in the United States the term refers to populations of 2,500 or more living in towns or cities and to populations living in urbanized areas, including suburbs. In other nations, the lower limits for settlements defined as urban vary between 200 and 50,000 persons. United Nations definitions of urban areas emphasize a population of 20,000 or more, and cities a population of 100,000 or more. Urbanization refers to the economic and social changes that accompany population concentration in urban areas and the growth of cities and their surrounding areas.

Cities reflect other areas with which they are linked and the civilizations of which they are a part. Cities are centers of markets, governments, religion, and culture (Weber 1958, pp. 65-89). A community is a population sharing a physical environment and leading a common and interdependent life. The size, density, and heterogeneity of the urban community have been described as leading to ”urbanism as a way of life,” which includes organizational, attitudinal, and ecological components different from those of rural areas (Wirth 1938).

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The City in History

Town and city development has been described as tied to a technological revolution in agriculture that increased food production, thereby freeing agriculturalists to engage in nonagricultural occupations. This resulted in an evolution to urban living and eventually to industrial production (Childe 1950). A second view is that some towns and cities first developed as trade centers, and were then nourished by agricultural activity in their hinterlands (Jacobs 1970).

Increasing complexity of social organization, environmental adaptation, and technology led to the emergence of cities (Child 1950; Duncan 1964). Excluding pre-agricultural settlements, towns and then cities were first established in the fourth to third millennium B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia within the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, in the Harappa civilization in the valleys of the Indus River and its tributaries, and in the Egyptian Old Kingdom in the lower Nile valley. Other centers appeared in the Huang Ho basin on the east coast of China and the Peruvian Andes in the second to first millennium B.C., and in Mesoamerica in the first millennium B.C. (Phillips 1997, pp. 82-85).

Small agricultural surpluses and limits on transportation meant that the first towns were small and few in number, and contained only a small proportion of the populations of their regions. Economic activities of the earliest towns were tied largely to their surrounding areas. After the rise of towns in the Middle East, trading centers appeared on the shores and islands of the Mediterranean; some, such as Athens, became city-states. After developing more effective communication and social organization, some Western city-states expanded and acquired empires, such as those of Alexander the Great and of Rome. Following the decline of Rome, complex city life continued in the East and in the West in the Byzantine and Muslim empires, while the population of Europe declined and reverted, for the most part, to subsistence agriculture and organized into small territories held together by the Catholic Church (Hawley 1981, pp. 1-35).

Sjoberg (1960) has described preindustrial cities as feudal in nature and sharing social, ecological, economic, family, class, political, religious, and educational characteristics different from those in modern industrial cities. In the former, the city center, with its government and religious and economic activities, dominated the remainder of the city and was the locale of the upper social classes. Homogeneous residential areas were found throughout the city, but nonresidential activities were not confined to distinct neighborhoods (Sjoberg 1960).

Beginning in the tenth century, further town development in the West was facilitated by increases in agricultural technology, population, trade, and communication; the rise of an entrepreneurial class; and an expanding web of social norms regarding economic activity. Communication and manufacturing were revived, which led to the growth of towns with local autonomy and public administration, and eventually to networks of cities. Surplus rural populations migrated to towns and cities, which grew because of their specialization and larger markets, becoming focal points of European societies (Hawley 1981, pp. 37-83).

The emergence of a global economy structured city development (Lo and Yeung 1996, pp. 1-13). In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, some European central place and port cities, such as those of the Hanseatic League of Northern Europe, established commercial links with others. Meanwhile, other cities in the Eastern Hemisphere and some cities in the Western Hemisphere were linked together by long-distance trade routes transcending the boundaries of empires and states (Wolfe 1982, p. 250). Military-commercial alliances facilitated the incorporation of territories into states. Commercial ties expanded during the late-fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, as Europeans developed merchant capitalism, and traded with and colonized peoples on other continents. European and North American states developed more complex economies during the next three centuries, facilitating development of a ”European world economy” with a global market, a global division of labor, and a global system of cities (Wallerstein 1974).

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Western Cities since the Industrial Revolution

In most regions of the more developed world, urban growth and urbanization have occurred at an increasing rate since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. After 1820, the numbers and sizes of urban areas and cities in the United States increased as a result of employment concentration in construction and manufacturing, so urban areas began to grow more rapidly than rural ones.

The population classified as urban by the U.S. Census Bureau (based on aggregations of 2,500 or more and including the surrounding densely populated territories) increased from 5 percent in 1790 to 75 percent in 1990. In 1790 the largest urban place in the United States had fewer than 50,000 inhabitants. As late as 1840, not a single urban place in the United States had more than half a million inhabitants. There were four such places in 1890, fourteen in 1940, twenty-two in 1980, and twenty-three in 1990 (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1997, p. 44).

City growth in the United States during the nineteenth century was driven by migration, since there were sometimes excesses of urban deaths over births in the early part of that century and lower birthrates in the last part of that century. Population concentration facilitated greater divisions of labor within and among families and individuals, as well as increasing numbers of voluntary associations centered on new urban interests and problems. At first, cities were compact, growth was vertical, and workers resided near their workplaces. The outward expansion of the residential population was facilitated in the last part of the century by steam and electric railways, the outward expansion of industry, and the increasing role of the central business district in integrating economic activities (Hawley 1981, pp. 61-145).

The increasing scale of production in the United States led to the development of a system of cities that organized activities in their hinterlands. Cities were differentiated from each other by their degree of dominance over or subordination to other cities, some of which were engaged in centralized manufacturing, others of which depended on transportation, commercial, administrative, or other functions. According to Hawley (1986), cities may have certain key functions that dominate other cities, that is, integrating, controlling, or coordinating activities with these cities. Examples of key functions are administration, commerce, finance, transportation, and communication (Duncan et al. 1960). Since each city exists within its own organizational environment, the expansion of linkages of urban organizations has accompanied the development of a system of cities (Turk 1977).

In the United States, the nature of key functions in city systems changed with the expansion of settlements westward, as colonial seaports, river ports, Midwestern railway towns, central places on the Great Plains, extractive centers, and government centers were integrated into an urban system. A nationwide manufacturing base was established by 1900, as were commercial and financial centers. By 1960 a fully developed system of differentiated urban centers existed within the United States (Duncan and Lieberson 1970).

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Metropolitan Areas

In the United States, metropolitan areas are defined as being of two kinds. Metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are areas including one or more central cities with a population of 50,000 or more, or areas with a less densely populated central city but with a combined urban population of at least 100,000 (75,000 in New England), including surrounding counties or towns. Consolidated metropolitan statistical areas (CMSAs) contain at least one million population and may have subareas called primary metropolitan statistical areas (PMSAs) (Frey 1990, p. 6). In 1990 a majority of the population of the United States resided in the thirty-nine major metropolitan areas: those with more than one million population (Frey 1995, p. 276).

New urban-population-density patterns appeared in the United States with the development of metropolitan areas. Growth was characterized by increases in population density in central cities, followed by increases in density in the metropolitan ring. Transport and communication technologies facilitated linkages of diverse neighborhoods into metropolitan communities dominated by more densely populated central cities. These linkages in turn organized relationships between central cities and less densely populated hinterlands and subcenters. Older metropolitan areas became the centers of CMSAs, while newer areas were the frontiers of expansion, growing by natural increase and especially by net migration. Metropolitan sprawl extended beyond many former nonurban functions, as well as more centrally located older features of the cityscape.

The interior of large Western metropolitan areas represents a merging of urban neighborhoods into complex overlapping spatial patterns, which reflect to some extent the dates when urban neighborhoods were settled and built-up. The blurring of neighborhood distinctions, facilitated by freeway and mass transit networks, facilitate interaction among “social circles” of people who are not neighborhood-based. Meanwhile, urban neighborhoods organized around such factors as status, ethnicity, or lifestyle, also persist. As the city ages, so does suburban as well as centrally located housing—a delayed consequence of the spread of urban settlement.

Kasarda (1995, p. 239) states that major cities in the United States have been transformed from centers of manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade, to centers of finance, administration, and information processing. Frey (1995, p.272) indicates that during the 1970s and 1980s populations concentrated in metropolitan areas with diverse economies that emphasized service and knowledge industries, as well as in recreation and retirement areas. In the 1970s there was a metropolitan and nonmetropolitan population turnaround. Populations in smaller metropolitan areas grew more rapidly than did those in larger metropolitan areas and population in developing countries grew more rapidly than in developed countries. In the 1980s, metropolitan population shifts, enhanced by international and internal migration, led to an urban revival, increasing regional racial, skill, and age divisions, the suburban dominance of growth and employment and more isolation of the urban core (Frey 1995, pp. 272-275).

Residential moves—the individual counterpart of population redistribution processes—are affected by population characteristics and other factors. Elements that influence mobility decisions are socioeconomic and psychological factors pertaining to the family and the family life cycle, housing and the local environment, and occupational and social mobility (Sabagh et al. 1969). For each of these factors, conditions may restrain persons from moving, or push or pull them to new locations. Information concerning new housing opportunities, the state of the housing market, and the availability of resources may impede or facilitate moves; subsequent moves may stem from recent migration or residential turnover in the metropolitan areas (Long 1988, pp. 219-224).

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Traditional Explanations of Cities

During the nineteenth century the character of the Western city was seen as different from that of noncity areas. Beginning with the public-health movement and concerns with urban housing, social scientists documented ”pathologies” of urban life through the use of social surveys, the purpose of which was to provide policy-relevant findings. But since ”urbanism as a way of life” has permeated the United States, many of the social and economic problems of cities have spread into smaller towns and rural areas, thus rendering the notion of unique urban pathologies less valid than when it was formulated.

In the first six decades of the twentieth century, explanations of city development were based largely on Western human ecology perspectives, and disagreements have arisen (Sjoberg 1968, p. 455). Theories based on Social Darwinism (Park [19161939] 1952) and economics (Burgess 1925, pp. 4752) were first used to explain the internal structures of cities. ”Subsocial” aspects of social and economic organization—which did not involve direct interpersonal interaction—were viewed as generating population aggregation and expansion. Market related competitive-cooperative processes—including aggregation-thinning out, expansion-contraction, centralization, displacement, segregation, migration, and mobility—were believed to determine the structures and patterns of urban neighborhoods (Quinn 1950). The competition of differing urban populations and activities for optimal locations was described as creating relatively homogeneous communities, labeled ”natural areas,” which display gradient patterns of decreasing densities of social and economic activities and problems with increasing distance from the city center.

On the basis of competitive-cooperative processes, city growth was assumed to result in characteristic urban shapes. The Burgess hypothesis specifies that in the absence of countervailing factors, the American city takes the form of a series of concentric zones, ranging from the organizing central business district to a commuters’ zone (Burgess 1925, pp. 47-52). Other scholars emphasized star-shaped, multiple-nuclei, or cluster patterns of development. These views were descriptive rather than theoretical; assumed a Western capitalist commercial-industrial city; were distorted by topography, and street and transportation networks; and generally failed to take into account use of land for industrial purposes, which is found in most city zones.

Theodorson (1982) and Michaelson (1976, pp. 3-32) have described research on American cities as reflecting neo-orthodox, social-area analysis, and sociocultural approaches, each with its own frame of reference and methods. Neo-orthodox approaches have emphasized the interdependence of components of an ecological system, including population, organization, technology, and environment (Duncan 1964). This view has been applied to larger ecological systems that can extend beyond the urban community. Sustenance organization is an important focus of study (Hawley 1986). While neo-orthodox ecologists did not integrate the notion of Social Darwinism into their work, the economic aspects of their approach have helped to guide studies of population phenomena, including population shifts and urban differentiation (Frey 1995, pp. 271-336; White 1987), residence changes (Long 1988, pp. 189-251), racial and ethnic diversity (Harrison and Bennett 1995, pp. 141-210), segregation (Farley and Allen 1987, pp. 103-159; Lieberson and Waters 1988, pp. 51-93), housing status (Myers and Wolch 1995, pp. 269-334), and industrial restructuring and the changing locations of jobs (Kasarda 1995, pp. 215-268).

Social-area analysis, in contrast, regards modern industrial society as based on increasing scale, which represents ”increased rates and intensities of social relation,” ”increased functional differentiation,” and ”increased complexity of social organization” (Shevky and Bell 1955). These concepts are related to neighborhood dimensions of social rank, urbanization, and segregation, which are delimited by the factor analysis of neighborhood or census tract measures. ”Factorial ecology” has been widely used for classifying census tracts, sometimes for planning purposes. There are disagreements concerning whether factor-analysis studies of urban neighborhood social structure, which are associated with social-area analysis and similar approaches, result in theoretically useful generalizations (Janson 1980, p. 454; White 1987, pp. 64-66).

Sociocultural ecology has used social values such as sentiment and symbolism to explain land use in central Boston (Firey 1947) and other aspects of city life. While values and culture are relevant to explanations of city phenomena, this perspective has not led to a fully developed line of investigation.

Michaelson (1976, pp. 17-32) has argued that none of these aforementioned ecological approaches to the city explicitly study the relationship between the physical and the social environment, for the following reasons: (1) their incomplete view of the environment; (2) their focus on population aggregates; (3) their failure to consider contributions of other fields of study; and (4) the newness of the field. Since Michaelson wrote his critique, sociologists have given more attention to the urban environment.

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New Explanations of Cities

Traditional explanations of cities did not adequately account for the economic, political, racial and social upheavals in U.S. cities during the 1960s. Further, urbanization in less developed regions does not necessarily follow the Western pattern. City growth may absorb national population increments and reflect a lack of rural employment, a migration of the rural unemployed to the city, and a lack of urban industrial development. Increasing concentration of population in larger cities in less developed regions may be followed by the emergence of more ”Western-style” hierarchies of cities, functions, and interorganizational relationships. Many cities in less developed regions experience the environmental hazards of Western cities, a compartmentalization of life, persistent poverty and unemployment, a rapidly worsening housing situation, and other symptoms of Western social disorganization. The juxtaposition of local urban-ism and some degree of Western urbanization may vitiate a number of traditional Western solutions to urban problems.

Kasarda and Crenshaw (1991, pp. 467-500) have summarized and compared theoretical perspectives concerning how urbanization occurs in less developed regions. Modernization-human ecology perspectives portray city building as the result of changes in social organization and applications of technology. Rural-urban migration, resulting from urban industrialization and excess rural fertility, can eventually lead to the reduction of rural-urban economic and social differences (Hawley 1981). Dependency-world-system perspectives describe the capitalist world-system as guiding change in the less developed regions so as to maintain the dominance of the more developed core (Wallerstein 1974). Urban bias perspectives emphasize the role of the state, sometimes governed by urban elites, which relies on urban resources, and favors urban over rural development (Lipton 1977). Kasarda and Crenshaw (1991) regard these perspectives as underspecified and as lacking empirical confirmation.

Political economy perspectives explain city growth in more developed as well as less developed regions as a product of globalization, including capital accumulation and nation-state formation (Tilly 1975). Europe and the United States colonized non-European peoples and obtained raw materials from the colonies which they processed and exchanged with their colonies as manufactured products. Colonial areas gained political independence after World War II. Economic restructuring then resulted in the globalization of economic and cultural life, and changes in the international division of labor between cities.

Sassen (1991) indicates that following World War II communications technology facilitated the dispersion of manufacturing by multinational corporations to low-wage cities, some in former colonial areas. A globally integrated organization of economic activity then supplanted world economic domination by the United States. Economic activities were integrated beyond national urban hierarchies into a small number of key global cities, which are now international banking centers, with transnational corporate headquarters, sophisticated business services, information processing, and telecommunications. These cities (London, New York, and to a lesser degree Tokyo) command the global economy and are supported by worldwide hierarchies of decentralized specialized cities (Sassen 1991). International networks of cities sometimes provide opportunities for multinational corporations from less developed regions to penetrate more developed regions (Lo and Yeoung 1998, p. 2).

Feagan and Smith (1987, pp. 3-33) describe economic restructuring in U.S. cities in the 1980’s as including plant closures and start-ups, the development and expansion of corporate centers, and corporate movement to outlying areas, all of which impact different groupings of cities. They portray economic restructuring as a product of interactions between governmental components of nation-states; multinational, national, and local corporations and businesses; and nongovernment organizations. These interactions guide policies affecting local taxation, regulation, implementation, and public-private partnerships. Some city neighborhoods have become expendable locations for rapidly shifting economic activity. Policies to accommodate to shifting sites of economic activity influence international and intranational migration, family life, as well as the use of urban, suburban, and rural space.

Aspects of political-economy perspectives have been taken into account in more traditional studies of cities (Frey 1995, pp. 271-336; Kasarda 1995, pp. 215-268). Walton (1993, pp. 301-320) maintains that political-economy perspectives have made the following contributions to the study of cities: (1) showing that urbanization and urbanism are contingent upon the development of social and economic systems; (2) generating comparative studies, particularly in developing countries; (3) elucidating the operation of the informal economy in cities; (4) outlining a political economy of place; (5) showing how globalization relates to ethnicity and community; and (6) relating urban political movements to changes in the global economy.

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Retrospect and Prospect

Globalization of economic and cultural life is associated with new urban trends. While cities in less developed regions lack resources when compared with those in more developed regions, cities in both types of regions are becoming more responsive to changes in worldwide conditions.

During the twenty-first century the majority of human population is expected to be urban residents (United Nations 1998). In 1995 approximately 46 percent (2.6 billion) of the world’s population lived in urban areas. By the year 2005, approximately half of the population is projected to be urban, compared with fewer than one of every three persons in 1950. By 2030 approximately six-tenths (5.1 billion) of the population is projected to be urban.

Urban areas in less developed areas are projected to dominate the growth of the less developed regions and of the world during the twenty-first century. Reasons are the high population growth rates and high numerical population growth of less developed regions, and high rural-urban migration to cities in these regions. In 1995, only 38 percent of the populations in the less developed regions were urban dwellers, compared with 75 percent of the populations in the more developed regions. Urban areas in less developed areas are expected to account for approximately 90 percent (2.4 billion) of the total of 2.7 billion persons that the United Nations projects will be added to the earth’s population from 1995 to 2030 (United Nations 1998). (Cities in more developed regions are expected to account for only 140 million of the population increase in the same period.)

There will continue to be significant differences in urbanization between the less developed regions. About three fourths of Latin-American population was urban in 1995, roughly the average level of industrialized regions in Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada. The most extensive future urban growth will be in Asia and Africa, which are now only about one-third urban (O’Mera 1999; United Nations 1998).

An increasing portion of urban population is residing in giant urban agglomerations. An urban agglomeration, according to the United Nations (1998), is the population within a contiguous territory inhabited at urban levels without regard to administered boundaries. In 1995 the fifteen largest ranged in size from 27 million (Tokyo) to 9.9 million (Delhi). Less developed countries are sometimes characterized by primate cities, that is, the largest city in a country dominates other cities and are larger than would be expected on the basis of a “rank-size” rule, which indicates that the rank of a population aggregation times its size equals a constant (Shryock, Siegel, and associates 1976), thus resulting in an inadequate supporting hierarchy of smaller cities. Primate cities often appear in small countries, and in countries with a dual economy, but are not as apparent in large countries or those with long urban histories (Berry 1964).

Megacities, defined by the United Nations (1998) as those cities with 10 million or more inhabitants, are increasing in number and are concentrated in less developed regions. There were fourteen megacities in 1995, including ten in less developed regions. Twenty-six megacities are projected in 2015, including twenty-two in less developed regions, of which sixteen will be in Asia. Megacities have both assets and liabilities. Brockerhoff and

Brennan (1998, pp. 75-114) have suggested that cities’ size and rates of population growth are inversely related to welfare. Kasarda and Crenshaw (1991, pp. 471-474) note that megacities, which may have serious social and economic problems, can be driving engines for industrial production in developing regions, and contribute disproportionately to their countries’ economies (Kasarda and Crenshaw 1991, pp. 467-501).

Berry (1978) indicates that urbanization may be accompanied by ”counter-urbanization” or decreasing city size and density. City growth sometimes occurs in cycles, which begin with rapid growth in the urban core, followed by rapid growth in the suburban ring, a decline in growth in both the core and the ring, and then rapid growth in the core (United Nations 1998). These cycles—of urbanization, suburbanization, counter-urbanization, and reurbanization—appear to be associated with concentrations of services in city centers, followed by improvements in commuting by the labor force and increased suburban home ownership by urban labor forces. The 1970s deurbanization (metropolitan turnaround) in the United States was followed by reurbanization in the 1980s, and the start of another period of deurbanization in the 1990s (United Nations 1998). During the 1970s and 1980s counter-urbanization occurred in other more developed regions and in less developed regions, including a slow-down of population growth rates in some megacities in developing regions, particularly in Latin America (United Nations 1998).

Changes in the global economy and in the aforementioned city growth cycles are associated with new forms of urban land use in the United States, which are laid over preexisting urban patterns. Businesses, which provide the economic base for cities, move between optimum locations in different cities (Wilson 1997, p. 8). Globalization has enhanced the growth of suburbs and “edge cities” organized around outlying business and high-technology centers linked by telecommunications networks to other cities (Castells, 1989; Muller 1997). Unregulated informal sectors of the economy develop in a variety of intraurban locations. High-income native and immigrant populations, which profit from the new global economy, sometimes cluster in protected enclaves. Low-income immigrant and ethnic populations often occupy areas inhabited by earlier cohorts of the urban poor. Such trends may be related to a spread of ghetto-underclass neighborhoods and to increasingly polarized intracity neighborhood differences of poverty and affluence (Morenoff and Tienda 1997, pp. 59-72).

Trans-border cites are new urban forms that transcend the boundaries of nation-states and reflect increasingly borderless economies. They result from globalization trends, including the economic integration of regions, reductions of trade barriers, and the establishment of multinational free trade zones. They link cities adjacent to a border, and sometimes metamorphose into trans-border systems, complete with specialized functions and populations, and extensive cross-border social and economic ties (Rubin-Kurtzman et al. 1993). Examples are Southern California (U.S.)-Baja California (Mexico), the Singapore-Johore (Malysia)-Riau (Indonesia) region, and the Beijing (China)-Pyongyang (North Korea)-Seoul (South Korea)-Tokyo (Japan) urban corridor. Trans-border cities pose questions regarding the limits of national sovereignty, but can also integrate human and economic resources and thus enhance international stability.

Cities will continue to exhibit extremes of affluence and poverty, but the extent and consequences of these extremes are unclear. Massey (1996, pp. 395-412) has argued that both the affluent and the poor are concentrating in cities in the United States; consequences may include increased densities of crime, addictions, diseases, and environmental degradation, the emergence of oppositional subcultures, and enhanced violence. Massey assumes these trends apply to less developed regions as well as to the United States. Farley (1996, pp. 417-420) has advanced a counterargument that while economic inequality is increasing in the United States, as may be the geographic segregation of the poor, the continuing (1996) rise in prosperity increases welfare at all income levels. Firebaugh and Beck (1994, pp. 631-653) maintain that economic growth, even in dependent less developed countries, may eventually increase welfare. Hout et al. (1998) state that political institutions, which are partially responsible for growing inequality, can provide appropriate remedies.

As cities account for increasing shares of the earth’s population, they will consume increasing shares of the earth’s resources, produce increasing shares of pollution, and their populations will be more subject to negative feedbacks from human impacts on the environment. O’Mera (1999, p. 137) estimates that populations of cities, while occupying only two percent of the earth’s surface, consume 75 percent of the earth’s resources. Cities are often sited on areas that contain prime agricultural land; urban expansion then inhibits and degrades crop production. Conversion of rural land to urban use intensifies natural hazards including floods, forest and brush fires, and earth slides. Further development concentrates and then disburses to outlying locations such artificial hazards as air pollution, land and water pollution, and motor vehicle and air traffic noise. Cities are also sited on the shorelines of oceans, thus increasing numbers of city residents are subject to the impacts of storm surges and erosion. Lowry (1992) argues that environmental impacts attributed to cities reflect population growth, industrialization and prosperity rather than city growth itself.

Some of the aforementioned trends are apparent, for example, in Los Angeles and Mexico City, which ranked seventh and second in size, respectively, among the world’s largest megacities in 1995. After World War II and until the 1970s, Los Angeles’s industrial and population growth and suburban sprawl made it a prototype for urban development that brought with it many inner-city, energy, suburban, environmental, state-management, ethnic, and capital-accumulation problems.

Since the early 1970s, Los Angeles has become a radically changed global megacity based on accumulation of global capital, economic restructuring, communications, and access to new international markets. The reorganization of Los Angeles has affected labor-force demands and the character of both native and immigrant populations. Immigration transformed Los Angeles into a multicultural metropolis (Waldinger and Bozorgmehr 1996, pp. 3-37). The area’s economy emphasizes high-income service-sector jobs and low-income service-sector and industrial-sectorjobs. Los Angeles has a great concentration of industrial technology and great international cultural importance, is dependent on the private automobile, has environmental hazards (earthquakes, brush fires, and air pollution), limited water supplies, housing shortages, crime, and has experienced uncontrolled intergroup conflicts in 1965 and 1992.

Mexico City, while not commanding the same global economic stature as Los Angeles, is the primate city of Mexico. Mexico City shares many of Los Angeles’s problems, including environmental hazards (earthquakes, and air pollution), water shortages, lack of housing and services, expansion of low-income settlements, dependence on the private automobile, lack of sufficient transportation, earthquakes, crime, and rising ethnic violence. Effects of policy responses to these problems have been dampened by economic reversals (Ward 1998).

These illustrations suggest that cities at somewhat similar levels of influence within their respective countries share similar characteristics, whether in the more developed or in the less developed regions. This would support a view that determinants of city development are rooted in the global economy and are influenced by similar trends, but vary according to the city’s place in the system.

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