Quantifying the Rural-Urban Gradient in Latin America and the Caribbean

World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 3634

36 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2005

See all articles by Kenneth M. Chomitz

Kenneth M. Chomitz

World Bank, Independent Evaluation Group

Piet Buys

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

Timothy S. Thomas

World Bank

Date Written: June 2005

Abstract

This paper addresses the deceptively simple question: what is the rural population of Latin America and the Caribbean? It argues that rurality is a gradient, not a dichotomy, and nominates two dimensions to that gradient: population density, and remoteness from large metropolitan areas. It uses geographically referenced population data (from the Gridded Population of the World, version 3) to tabulate the distribution of populations in Latin America, and in individual countries, by population density and by remoteness. It finds that the popular perception of Latin America as a 75% urban continent is misleading. Official census criteria, though inconsistent between countries, tend to classify as 'urban' small settlements of less than 2000 people. Many of these settlements are however embedded in an agriculturally based countryside. The paper finds that about 13% of LAC populations live at ultra-low densities, of less than 20 per square kilometer. Essentially all these people are more than an hour distant from a large city, and more than half live more than four hours distant. A quarter of LAC population is estimated to live at densities below 50, again essentially all of them more than an hour distant from a large city. Almost half (46%) of LAC lives at population densities below 150 (a conventional threshold for urban areas), and more than 90% of this group is at least an hour distant from a city; about a third of them (18% of LAC total) are more than four hours' distant from a large city.

Suggested Citation

Chomitz, Kenneth M. and Buys, Piet and Thomas, Timothy Scott, Quantifying the Rural-Urban Gradient in Latin America and the Caribbean (June 2005). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 3634. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=757164 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.757164

Kenneth M. Chomitz (Contact Author)

World Bank, Independent Evaluation Group ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Piet Buys

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

1818 H. Street, N.W.
MSN3-311
Washington, DC 20433
United States
202-522-3230 (Fax)

Timothy Scott Thomas

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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