Growing inequality in US cities could lead to widespread social unrest and increased mortality, says a new United Nations report on the urban environment.
In a survey of 120 major cities
"High levels of inequality can lead to negative social, economic and political consequences that have a destabilising effect on societies," said the report. "[They] create social and political fractures that can develop into social unrest and insecurity."
According to the annual State of the World’s cities report from UN-Habitat, race is one of the most important factors determining levels of inequality in the
Disparities of wealth were measured on the "Gini co- efficient", an internationally recognised measure usually only applied to the wealth of countries. The higher the level, the more wealth is concentrated in the hands of fewer people.
"It is clear that social tension comes from inequality. The trickle down theory [that wealth starts with the rich] has not delivered. Inequality is not good for anybody," said Anna Tibaijuka, head of UN-Habitat, in
The report found that
The report suggested that
In Europe, which was generally more egalitarian than other continents,
It documents the seemingly unstoppable move of people away from rural to urban areas. This year it is believed that the number of people living in urban areas exceeded those in the countryside for the first time ever, but the report says there is no sign of the trend slowing.
"The dramatic transition between rural and urban communities is not over. Urbanisation levels will rise dramatically in the next 40 years to reach 70% by 2050," it predicts.
The most dramatic urbanisation has been taking place in
Urban growth rates are highest in the developing world, which absorbs an average 5 million new urban residents a month and is responsible for 95% of world urban growth. The report predicts that Asian cities will grow the most in the next 40 years and could have 63% of the world urban population by 2050.
Rather than countryside to city movement, which has marked rapid population growth in the last 40 years, the UN expects more people to move from city to city.
Capital cities in particular are attracting much more of countries’ investments and are growing fast. Some are becoming home to nearly half a country’s population.
But the report also identified what it believes is the emergence of a new urban trend, with many cities now shrinking in size. The populations of 46 countries, including Germany, Italy, Japan and most former soviet states, are expected to be smaller in 2050 than they are now, and in the past 30 years, says the report, more cities in the developed world have shrunk than grown.
It found that 49 cities in the
The reasons for the decline of cities was mostly economic, but the report says that the environment is now an important factor.
Air quality and pollution from mines, power plants and oil exploration have been responsible for population losses in India, Mexico and Africa, it says. "Cities tend to struggle most with health-threatening environmental issues, such as the lack of safe water, sanitation and waste."
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