Mega-Cities and the Population Explosion


Since the 1970s mega-cities of the developing world have absorbed huge population increments, and other large cities have experienced on average, a doubling of population size. In their recent article The Poverty of Cities in the Developing World, Brockerhoff and Brennan used infant mortality and other indicators to compare people's wellbeing across cities of one million or more, smaller cities, and towns within developing regions. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the advantage of big city residents has declined since the 1970s, and was no longer apparent by the 1990s.

In sub- Saharan Africa mega-villages have emerged, places in which basic human needs — adequate nutrition, early schooling, good child health — are less fulfilled than even in small towns. Unfavorable living conditions in mega-cities of Latin America and in the North Africa/Asia region, and in the medium-sized cities of sub- Saharan Africa, are strongly related to the pace of population growth of these cities since the 1960s and 1970s.

Martin Brockerhoff earned a Ph.D. in demography from Brown University in 1991 specializing in African studies, specifically studying child health problems in migrant communities in the areas around Dakar in Senegal and Bamako in Mali. He worked at the US Agency for International Development in Senegal and Washington D.C. from 1989 to 1993 as a health analyst and program officer, and since 1994 he has worked for the Population Council in New York conducting research on urban population, health, environment, and poverty issues. We spoke him about living conditions in developing countries.

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