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Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

Are all cities overpopulated?

Asked by Aesthetic_Mess (7863 points ) January 14th, 2013

What’s the criteria for a city being overpopulated?
What cities are overpopulated? Apparently, NYC is, but what’s the criteria for overpopulation?

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22 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

One determination is based upon whether the housing is “affordable”? Are the prices for small apartments that would barely qualify as sufficient by HUD Section 8 standards, more than 4 times the yearly salary of the inhabitants? Are the rents higher than the 30% of the inhabitants’ income?
If yes, then there is not enough competition and the city is too crowded.

dabbler's avatar

What are your criteria for “overpopulation”?

“Apparently, NYC is…” What’s so apparent about that?

If we mean expensive, then @LuckyGuy‘s information is right on the money, so to speak, rent and real estate ARE expensive here, and it’s a serious problem for service workers and families with ordinary incomes that would go much further some other places.
And that’s just a start… non-mainstream beer is $2/bottle !!!

But if overpopulated means a lot of people don’t have the basic services for ordinary modern life, then NYC is not overpopulated. We have sewerage, some of the best tap water anywhere, a great fire department, a police that are generally effective (although increasingly militarized).
Rio or Mumbay or maybe even Tijuana are better examples of overpopulated, where a lot of people there are living off the grid, in a shack, without running water and with open sewerage.

Staalesen's avatar

I always thought overpopulation had something to do with the number of people per square mile/kilometer or such… I never considered it was also about expenses..

@dabbler
2 dollars a bottle… I am envious, here in norway its like 15$ a bottle at a pub..

dabbler's avatar

@Staalesen Yikes! That is expensive. $2/bottle is at a market here.
At a bar…. it can get up to $5/bottle. A draught “pint” [ U.S size :P ] is up to $12 around here in a fancy glass you don’t get to keep.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@dabbler , @Staalesen I am proposing an objective way to look at the answer. I figure the laws of supply and demand will show if a developed city is over-crowed or not.
Granted you can have a hell hole like the slums of Delhi, or “the Township” in SA where there is virtually no infrastructure and minimal governmental services. In those cases the answer is obvious. My answer is for developed regions that supposedly have sufficient water, sewage, electricity, trash, and broadband services.

Now that I think about it, maybe my rules even apply to residents of a Delhi slum. What are the financial obligations for living in a corrugated tin hut and what is a typical resident’s income?

Nullo's avatar

I would say that a place is overpopulated when there are more people in it than the infrastructure can support.

dabbler's avatar

@LuckyGuy I definitely agree that (affordable housing) is a useful component for a ‘crowding’ analysis. In particular housing costs compared to income, the fraction spent on housing.
There is probably very high correlation for a lot of other characteristics of ‘crowding’, too.
But by itself it just seems incomplete. It’s easy to measure, though, and is a great starting point.

PhiNotPi's avatar

AP Human Geography time!

Overpopulation is sometimes a tricky concept, as it can mean many things in many different situations. Often, it is a situation in which there are so many people in one place that the city is unable to provide adequate food, shelter, water, and sanitation services.

Because of this definition, there is no specific population density that is considered the boundary of overpopulation. Even if two places have the same population density, one place could be more overpopulated than the other, based on the availability of resources.

To answer the title question, cities are not necessarily overpopulated just because there are a lot of people. If there are enough resources, then it is not overpopulated.

On the other hand, most cities create a massive influx of poor or unemployed individuals looking for jobs. Also, a lot of wealthier people move from the cities to the suburbs, since commuting to work is now much more possible. This creates a situation in which many cities do not recieve enough taxpayer dollars, and this can lead to the decline of the inner city.

I’m not sure if I have answered your question, but I feel that I’ve talked about some relevant stuff.

KeepYourEyesWideOpen's avatar

In my opinion they are. But of course everyone thinks differently about that since everyone needs a different amount of space to live.

PhiNotPi's avatar

I would like to @dabbler‘s point that NYC is not overpopulated, at least by an international standard. NYC may have some problems such as higher prices (which may just be the normal market response to a high demand, not necessarily a low supply) and a population of homeless individuals. However, many cities in Brazil, India, China, etc have such a large population of homeless, unemployed, or low-income people that they form a city that completely surrounds the main city. These people live in mud huts that they build by their own hands, and there is a completely inadequate supply of needed food and sanitation. NYC’s lower class is nothing compared to this.

antimatter's avatar

When all basic service delivery falls behind and when you see more ruble in the street than your trash can.
When there is absolutely no parking in your neighborhood.
When you spend four hours at city hall to pay bills.

wundayatta's avatar

No. They are underpopulated, in fact. Cities are the most efficient form of habitation for people. They will never be overpopulated until we can not support the infrastructure necessary to keep people alive and happy. We will never get to that point. The world’s population will have declined precipitously in one hundred years, and we will be in a position where the cities are full of empty and unused buildings and we won’t have enough labor to tear things down. Or perhaps we will, if we have robots to do the work, which we probably will by then.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Cities are overpopulated when the resources available to supply them do not meet the demands of the population.

mattbrowne's avatar

In many Germany cities the opposite is happening. Fewer people use the same number of buildings and rooms which makes the infrastructure (water supply etc) more expensive for the individual.

PhiNotPi's avatar

What @mattbrowne said is often the case in developed countries. Land near large market centers is the most expensive, so large apartment buildings divide up the costs and make it cheaper for the individual. Since commuting to work is now possible, people often move away from cities to the suburbs where they have more room. As fewer people live in the inner city apartments, the expenses get divided amongst more people, driving up costs.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Cites are most certainly more efficient for handling large numbers of people. Even more efficient are barracks like POW camps or capsule hotels in Japan.
Supply and demand determine the price. Right now, city prices are high when compared to the suburbs and more rural areas (where I live). There needs to be either fewer people in the city, or more housing units to bring the pricing to affordable levels. As more people use the internet for work and the idea of a central office goes out of fashion, fewer peole will live in the city and prices will fall.

As a side note, here in western NY, for $200,000 you can buy a modern, well insulated 2200 sq ft ( 220 sq meter) home with a full basement on 5 acres of land (2 hectare, 20,000 sq meters). What does $200,000 get you in the NYC or Tokyo or other developed city? A rabbit hutch with the added benefit of noisy neighbors above, below, and on three sides, tiny appliances, no storage space, monthly “maintenance” fees, parking fees, traffic noise, air pollution, and crime rates that we find shocking.

On the other hand, in the city you don’t have to worry about snow removal nor fear being attacked by a wild animal so that is an admitted advantage.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I just discovered this map of housing and transportation affordability for the United States. It indicates the shockingly high percentage of income needed to live in certain cities.
Landlords can get what they want because people have no choice. That sounds like overcrowding to me.

wundayatta's avatar

@LuckyGuy Landlords get what they want because so many people want to live in the city and there’s a shortage of high quality housing. If you are willing to live in a dump, you can practically have your choice of fleabag motels.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@wundayatta You said it: “there’s a shortage of high quality housing”. To me that means the city is overcrowded and needs more high quality housing units.
If there was a sudden increase in the number of high quality housing units, prices would fall to reasonable levels and more people would fill them. That would be an efficient use of space and free up some of the residents’ funds so they could spend money on other goods and services helping the economy.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m sorry, @LuckyGuy, but I don’t understand what you said. Generally, if there is a high price for something, it encourages people to provide more of it. The reason there is a problem in Manhattan, is rent control and difficulty in getting permits to build more high quality housing. But they use space pretty efficiently in Manhattan. And it’s all spreading outward, too—lots of new development in the outer boroughs.

PhiNotPi's avatar

In my above response, “divided amongst more” should be “divided amongst less.” As there are fewer people in cities to share the cost of land, house prices go up.

dabbler's avatar

“difficulty in getting permits to build more high quality housing” Huh? There have been tons of new housing starts in the past few years in NYC, it can’t be hard to get permits for that.
Unless “high quality” means inexpensive or something like that. (of which there are totally Not enough).

There are buttloads of new recently built apartment buildings here. But one problem is that so many people want to live here. It is disneyland for adults. People like all this socialist infrastructure like subways and outstanding water system and ‘business friendly’ city policies.
Another problem is that pretty much all of the new housing stock is “luxury” which means you get a stone countertop in your efficiency kitchen and recessed lighting, and a rent bill 1000$ more than national average (for less space).

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