What Lists of Cities Are Available?

The various and diverse listings of cities point to the complexity of urban research. Understanding how each defines “city” and the methodology they use to collect and aggregate data and metrics is critical to any city research and engagement strategy. Following are some of the most common listings.

  • World Urbanization Prospects is a listing of 1,692 urban agglomerations.[1] Urban agglomerations consider the extent of the contiguous urban (or built-up) areas, to delineate the city’s boundaries.
  • Global Urban Expansion is listing of 3,943 cities.[2] The listing views the city as the actual built-up area instead of its administrative area and includes cities with population in excess of 100,000.
  • Demographia is listing of 1,064 urban areas.[3] Demographia’s listing focuses on the built-up area which it also considers the physical city. Demographia’s listing only includes cities with population above 500,000.
  • Numbeo is listing of 8,398 cities.[4] As a crowd-sourced database, Numbeo is characteristic of self-reported but vetted data. As such, municipalities may have been in some case treated as cities.
  • Brinkhoff is listing of 561 urban agglomerations.[5] Urban agglomerations include a central city and neighboring towns or suburbs forming a connected region of dense, predominately urban population. The listing includes those with population above 1 million.
  • Global Human Settlement is listing of 13,135 urban centers.[6] The Urban Centre Database is produced by the European Commission Directorate General Joint Research Centre. It defines cities as “high-density clusters of contiguous grid cells of 1 km2 with a density of at least 1500 inhabitants per km2 and a minimum population of 50,000.”
  • Radius Global Cities listing of 3,200 urban centers.[7] The listing includes cities with population above 100,000 with some exceptions such as national or provincial capitals.

[1] United Nations, “World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision,” (DESA, Population Division, 2018).

[2] Shlomo Angel, Stephen C. Sheppard and Daniel L. Civco, The Dynamic of Global Urban Expansion (Washington: The World Bank, 2005).

[3] Demographia, “World Urban Areas: Built-Up Urban Areas or Urban Agglomerations,” 14th ed. (2018), http://www.demographia.com/db-worldua.pdf, accessed 6/29/2018.

[4] Numbeo, “Cities,” (2018), https://www.numbeo.com/api/doc.jsp, accessed 6/29/2018.

[5] Thomas Brinkhoff, “City Population,” (2018), http://www.citypopulation.de, accessed 6/29/2018.

[6] Florczyk, A.J., Melchiorri, M., Corbane, C., Schiavina, M., Maffenini, M., Pesaresi, M., Politis, P., Sabo, S., Freire, S., Ehrlich, D., Kemper, T., Tommasi, P., Airaghi, D. and L. Zanchetta, Description of the GHS Urban Centre Database 2015, Public Release 2019, Version 1.0, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2019, ISBN 978-92-79-99753-2, doi:10.2760/037310, JRC115586, https://data.jrc.ec.europa.eu/dataset?sort=sort_criteria+desc%2C+title_string+asc&_projects_limit=0&projects=GHSL, accessed 9/4/2020.

[7] Radius Global Cities Network, “Global Cities Dashboard,” (2020), http://grd.center/Urban-Centers-Outloook, accessed 9/4/2020.