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Concept: City


How were cities distributed globally in the past? How many people lived in these cities? How did cities influence their local and regional environments? In order to understand the current era of urbanization, we must understand long-term historical urbanization trends and patterns. However, to date there is no comprehensive record of spatially explicit, historic, city-level population data at the global scale. Here, we developed the first spatially explicit dataset of urban settlements from 3700 BC to AD 2000, by digitizing, transcribing, and geocoding historical, archaeological, and census-based urban population data previously published in tabular form by Chandler and Modelski. The dataset creation process also required data cleaning and harmonization procedures to make the data internally consistent. Additionally, we created a reliability ranking for each geocoded location to assess the geographic uncertainty of each data point. The dataset provides the first spatially explicit archive of the location and size of urban populations over the last 6,000 years and can contribute to an improved understanding of contemporary and historical urbanization trends.

Concepts: Statistics, Chronology, Demography, Geographic information system, City, Urban area, Urbanization, Anno Domini


Studies have shown that natural environments can enhance health and here we build upon that work by examining the associations between comprehensive greenspace metrics and health. We focused on a large urban population center (Toronto, Canada) and related the two domains by combining high-resolution satellite imagery and individual tree data from Toronto with questionnaire-based self-reports of general health perception, cardio-metabolic conditions and mental illnesses from the Ontario Health Study. Results from multiple regressions and multivariate canonical correlation analyses suggest that people who live in neighborhoods with a higher density of trees on their streets report significantly higher health perception and significantly less cardio-metabolic conditions (controlling for socio-economic and demographic factors). We find that having 10 more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being 7 years younger. We also find that having 11 more trees in a city block, on average, decreases cardio-metabolic conditions in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $20,000 higher median income or being 1.4 years younger.

Concepts: Demography, City, Urban area, Developed environments, Canada, São Paulo, Urban planning, Village


Whilst being hailed as the remedy to the world’s ills, cities will need to adapt in the 21(st) century. In particular, the role of public transport is likely to increase significantly, and new methods and technics to better plan transit systems are in dire need. This paper examines one fundamental aspect of transit: network centrality. By applying the notion of betweenness centrality to 28 worldwide metro systems, the main goal of this paper is to study the emergence of global trends in the evolution of centrality with network size and examine several individual systems in more detail. Betweenness was notably found to consistently become more evenly distributed with size (i.e. no “winner takes all”) unlike other complex network properties. Two distinct regimes were also observed that are representative of their structure. Moreover, the share of betweenness was found to decrease in a power law with size (with exponent 1 for the average node), but the share of most central nodes decreases much slower than least central nodes (0.87 vs. 2.48). Finally the betweenness of individual stations in several systems were examined, which can be useful to locate stations where passengers can be redistributed to relieve pressure from overcrowded stations. Overall, this study offers significant insights that can help planners in their task to design the systems of tomorrow, and similar undertakings can easily be imagined to other urban infrastructure systems (e.g., electricity grid, water/wastewater system, etc.) to develop more sustainable cities.

Concepts: City, Complex system, Central America, Social network, Centrality, Public transport, Train station, The Remedy


Rural development initiatives across the developing world are designed to improve community well-being and livelihoods. However they may also have unforeseen consequences, in some cases placing further demands on stretched public services. In this paper we use data from a longitudinal study of five Ethiopian villages to investigate the impact of a recent rural development initiative, installing village-level water taps, on rural to urban migration of young adults. Our previous research has identified that tap stands dramatically reduced child mortality, but were also associated with increased fertility. We demonstrate that the installation of taps is associated with increased rural-urban migration of young adults (15-30 years) over a 15 year period (15.5% migrate out, n = 1912 from 1280 rural households). Young adults with access to this rural development intervention had three times the relative risk of migrating to urban centres compared to those without the development. We also identify that family dynamics, specifically sibling competition for limited household resources (e.g. food, heritable land and marriage opportunities), are key to understanding the timing of out-migration. Birth of a younger sibling doubled the odds of out-migration and starting married life reduced it. Rural out-migration appears to be a response to increasing rural resource scarcity, principally competition for agricultural land. Strategies for livelihood diversification include education and off-farm casual wage-labour. However, jobs and services are limited in urban centres, few migrants send large cash remittances back to their families, and most return to their villages within one year without advanced qualifications. One benefit for returning migrants may be through enhanced social prestige and mate-acquisition on return to rural areas. These findings have wide implications for current understanding of the processes which initiate rural-to-urban migration and transitions to low fertility, as well as for the design and implementation of development intervention across the rural and urban developing world.

Concepts: Family, Demography, Population, City, Urban area, Human migration, Urbanization, Rural economics


Timings of human activities are marked by circadian clocks which in turn are entrained to different environmental signals. In an urban environment the presence of artificial lighting and various social cues tend to disrupt the natural entrainment with the sunlight. However, it is not completely understood to what extent this is the case. Here we exploit the large-scale data analysis techniques to study the mobile phone calling activity of people in large cities to infer the dynamics of urban daily rhythms. From the calling patterns of about 1,000,000 users spread over different cities but lying inside the same time-zone, we show that the onset and termination of the calling activity synchronizes with the east-west progression of the sun. We also find that the onset and termination of the calling activity of users follows a yearly dynamics, varying across seasons, and that its timings are entrained to solar midnight. Furthermore, we show that the average mid-sleep time of people living in urban areas depends on the age and gender of each cohort as a result of biological and social factors.

Concepts: Sun, City, Urban area, Developed environments


Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a disabling and disfiguring disease resulting from a mosquito-borne parasitic infection. It is a major public health problem in many countries with a warm climate. Research and control activities have mainly focused on LF in rural areas where it also has its major impact. However, with rapid and unplanned growth of cities in the developing world, there is a need also to consider LF transmission and control in urban settings. Here, we review currently available knowledge on urban LF and the environmental and socio-economic basis for its occurrence. Among the three parasite species causing LF in humans, only Wuchereria bancrofti has been documented to have a significant potential for urban transmission. This is primarily because one of its vectors, Culex quinquefasciatus, thrives and proliferates excessively in crowded city areas with poor sanitary, sewerage and drainage facilities. For this reason, urban LF also often shows a marked focality in distribution, with most cases clustered in areas inhabited by the less privileged city populations. More knowledge on urban LF is needed, in particular on its socio-economic and human behavioural context, on the potential for transmission in regions where other LF vector species predominate, and on rapid methods for identification and mapping of risk areas, to provide a strong evidence base for its control.

Concepts: Malaria, Population, Anopheles, City, Vector, Diethylcarbamazine, Filariasis, Wuchereria bancrofti


There is little knowledge about the use of point-of-care (POC) tests among general practitioners (GPs). The aim of this study was to determine which POC tests are known and used by GPs and how they estimate the usefulness of those tests. The use of POC tests among GPs and university-associated general practitioners who teach undergraduates (GPTUs) was elucidated. Differences between GPs working in urban and rural areas were also investigated.

Concepts: City, Learning, Rural area, Knowledge, Rural economics


Which neighborhoods experience physical improvements? In this paper, we introduce a computer vision method to measure changes in the physical appearances of neighborhoods from time-series street-level imagery. We connect changes in the physical appearance of five US cities with economic and demographic data and find three factors that predict neighborhood improvement. First, neighborhoods that are densely populated by college-educated adults are more likely to experience physical improvements-an observation that is compatible with the economic literature linking human capital and local success. Second, neighborhoods with better initial appearances experience, on average, larger positive improvements-an observation that is consistent with “tipping” theories of urban change. Third, neighborhood improvement correlates positively with physical proximity to the central business district and to other physically attractive neighborhoods-an observation that is consistent with the “invasion” theories of urban sociology. Together, our results provide support for three classical theories of urban change and illustrate the value of using computer vision methods and street-level imagery to understand the physical dynamics of cities.

Concepts: Better, Scientific method, Demography, City, Population density, Philosophy of science, Human physical appearance, Neighborhoods


BACKGROUND:The relation between place of residence and risk of postpartum depression is uncertain. We evaluated the relation between place of residence and risk of postpartum depression in a population-based sample of Canadian women. METHODS:Female postpartum respondents to the 2006 Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey (n = 6126) were classified as living in rural (< 1000 inhabitants or population density < 400/km2), semirural (nonrural but < 30 000 inhabitants), semiurban (30 000-499 999 inhabitants) or urban (≥ 500 000 inhabitants) areas. We further subdivided women living in rural areas based on the social and occupational connectivity of their community to larger urban centres. We compared the prevalence of postpartum depression (score of ≥ 13 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) across these groups and adjusted for the effect of known risk factors for postpartum depression. RESULTS:The prevalence of postpartum depression was higher among women living in urban areas than among those living in rural, semirural or semiurban areas. The difference between semiurban and urban areas could not be fully explained by other measured risk factors for postpartum depression (adjusted odds ratio 0.60, 95% confidence interval 0.42-0.84). In rural areas, there was a nonsignificant gradient of risk: women with less connection to larger urban centres were at greater risk of postpartum depression than women in areas with greater connection.Conclusion:There are systematic differences in the distribution of risk factors for postpartum depression across geographical areas, resulting in an increased risk of depression among women living in large urban areas. Prevention programs directed at modifiable risk factors (e.g., social support) could specifically target women living in these areas to reduce the rates of postpartum depression.

Concepts: Childbirth, Epidemiology, Medical statistics, Population, City, Urban area, Bipolar disorder, Postpartum depression


Urban water systems are impacted by land use within their source watersheds, as it affects raw water quality and thus the costs of water treatment. However, global estimates of the effect of land cover change on urban water-treatment costs have been hampered by a lack of global information on urban source watersheds. Here, we use a unique map of the urban source watersheds for 309 large cities (population > 750,000), combined with long-term data on anthropogenic land-use change in their source watersheds and data on water-treatment costs. We show that anthropogenic activity is highly correlated with sediment and nutrient pollution levels, which is in turn highly correlated with treatment costs. Over our study period (1900-2005), median population density has increased by a factor of 5.4 in urban source watersheds, whereas ranching and cropland use have increased by a factor of 3.4 and 2.0, respectively. Nearly all (90%) of urban source watersheds have had some level of watershed degradation, with the average pollutant yield of urban source watersheds increasing by 40% for sediment, 47% for phosphorus, and 119% for nitrogen. We estimate the degradation of watersheds over our study period has impacted treatment costs for 29% of cities globally, with operation and maintenance costs for impacted cities increasing on average by 53 ± 5% and replacement capital costs increasing by 44 ± 14%. We discuss why this widespread degradation might be occurring, and strategies cities have used to slow natural land cover loss.

Concepts: Water, Eutrophication, Water pollution, City, Pollution, Land use, Rural economics, Land cover