Urbanization is the shift from a rural to an urban society, bringing a large concentration of people into towns and cities. This process usually occurs when a nation is still developing. The trend toward urbanization is a worldwide phenomena. The chief cause of global urbanization is the new economic opportunities it brings to people and governments; however, it has both positive and negative effects on society.
Workers move to urban centers to find better economic opportunities. The Industrial Revolution and the subsequent shift from agricultural jobs to factory jobs made it profitable for companies to locate their factories in large cities with plenty of local workers. There often is a severe lack of resources in rural areas, such as medical technology, which further drives people to the cities. In developing countries, such as those in Africa, natural population increases and migration have been big factors in urbanization. People are driven out of rural poverty and into urban areas as they are less able to care for their growing families; cities offer employment, food, shelter and education.
Negative Social Effects
Urbanization has many adverse effects on the structure of society as gigantic concentrations of people compete for limited resources. Rapid housing construction leads to overcrowding and slums, which experience major problems such as poverty, poor sanitation, unemployment and high crime rates. Additionally, strains on important natural resources, such as water supply, leads to higher prices and general environmental sustainability problems.
Negative Psychological Effects
Urbanization makes people dependent on others for basic necessities; urban-dwellers must rely on the rural hinterland for agricultural production, for instance, because city residents do not have enough land to grow their own food. Urban-dwellers suffer the psychological degradation that comes from depending on other people to accomplish the activities of daily life, from transportation to education to entertainment. Writing in the "Anatolian Journal of Psychiatry" in 2008, M. Tayfun Turan and Asli Besirli found that the social problems associated with urban societies, the traffic problems and the general anxiety about the future contributed to an increase in mental health disorders.
Urbanization offers real economic opportunities to people who would otherwise be destined to subsistence living without hope for economic improvement. There is an overall growth in commercial opportunities with urbanization, resulting in more profits and more jobs. As the economy grows, all of society benefits from internal improvements, whether through the wealthier tax base or from competition between private organizations. Another benefit of urbanization is that the tight grouping of people enables social and cultural integration on a level unavailable to scattered populations in rural areas.
Brian Gabriel has been a writer and blogger since 2009, contributing to various online publications. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in history from Whitworth University.