For more than a century, people have been moving by the millions to larger urban areas from smaller urban areas and rural areas. Within the last five years, the share of the world population living in rural areas has dropped below one-half for the first time. The migration to the larger urban areas has spread to lower income nations as the countryside seemingly empties into places like Chongqing, Jakarta andDelhi. In the United States, the rural population has declined from slightly more than 60% in 1900 to approximately 18% in 2010. In Australia, the rural population is expected to decline to below 10% later in this decade.
Of course, the driving factor in this urban migration is the quest for opportunity. People have flocked to urban areas because opportunities are greater.
Yet if the opportunities are in metropolitan areas, indications are that this is taking place over a wider area than in the past. A review of income growth between 2001 and 2006 in four nations shows that incomes rose more in some surrounding regions than within the metropolitan areas, at least during the first half of the decade. It will be interesting to see if these patterns have changed in the second half of the decade, something we will be able to discern once the 2010/2011 round of census data is available.