Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Which cities went up or down the ranking of the world’s largest cities?

David Satterthwaite
12 Feb 2020

IIED senior fellow David Satterthwaite is curating a series of blogs and interviews on global urban change. In this blog he looks at rapidly growing cities that moved into the list of the top 100 cities, and those that fell off the bottom of the list.

The first two blogs in this series looked at how the list of the world’s 100 largest cities changed from 1800 to today, and provided a more detailed examination of the 20 largest cities.

This blog explores movements within the top ranked cities: which cities grew into the largest 100 or went rapidly up the rankings – and those which fell down the list, or out of it. With the previous blog having analysed the 20 largest cities, this blog also looks at the ‘next 20’ (i.e. cities ranked 21-40) and the last 20 cities (i.e. rankings 81-100).

Rises and falls 

Cities that grew into the 2020 top 100: 13 rapidly growing cities did not appear in 2000 but by 2020 have made it on to the 100 largest cities list: five are in Africa and eight in Asia (including four in China). In 1950, three of these cities did not exist: Shenzhen, Brasilia and New Taipei City (Xīnběi S).

Cities that fell off the list: 13 cities that were among 100 largest cities in 2000 had dropped off by 2020; one in Africa, two in Asia, two in Latin America, four in Europe and four in Northern America. This includes a group of cities from high-income nations (Berlin, Boston, Detroit, Milan, Montréal and Rome) and two Brazilian cities (Pôrto Alegre and Recife).

These blogs reflect a planned new edition of David Satterthwaite's landmark 2007 working paper, 'The Transition to a Predominantly Urban World and its Underpinnings'. The updated edition will be published later this year. Almost all the population data in this blog is from the UN Population Division's World Urbanization Prospects 2018.

Movers and shakers: 20-41

Of cities ranked 21 to 40, most have been in the top 20 in earlier years (six were in the 20 largest cities in 1950). Several are capital cities of large population middle- and upper-income nations: Bogotá, Jakarta, Krung Thep (Bangkok), Lima, Moscow, Paris, and Seoul.

Some cities were too small to make the 21-40 bracket for 2000, but by 2020 had risen dramatically up the ranks: Lahore (up 19 places), Chengdu (up 15) and Bangalore (up 14). By 2035, Lahore and Bangalore are both projected to be on the largest 20 list, which is astonishing given that in 1950 they were 90th and 106th respectively.

(All of the tables below use a projected figure for 2035. The arrows denote whether that city has risen or dropped in the rankings since the previous ranking).

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