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Unit 6

6.0 Cities & Urban Land-Use Patterns & Processes

5 min readjune 18, 2021


AP Human Geography 🚜

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Unit 6: Patterns & Processes of Cities & Urban Land-Use 🌆

6.0: The “Why of Where” for Cities 🌆🌎

Geographers have developed models to better understand the different distribution patterns of cities within a country or region. Knowing the difference between rank-size rule 🥇🥈🥉 and primate cities 💪 is crucial to fully understand these distribution patterns. Some countries and regions have cities of all sizes spread out somewhat evenly (like the United States). In contrast, others have one dominant city where the majority of wealth 💲 and services are concentrated (like Mexico City). Christaller’s Central Place Theory is probably the most important urban model in developing an understanding of the distribution of different-sized settlements within a region. Using the concepts of threshold and range, the model helps geographers determine why certain services are found in nearly all settlements (gas stations ⛽), regardless of size, while other high-level services (professional sports arenas ⚽⚾🏀🏈) are only found in larger cities.   

 

Unit Preview (Try to answer these questions!)

  • Why are cities located where they are?
  • How does a country’s level of development influence how cities are structured?
  • Why do cities in different parts of the world experience similar challenges?
  • Why aren’t the largest cities found in the most powerful countries?
  • Why do people move to and from cities?
  • Why do so many people in the United States live in suburbs?
  • Why are racial minority groups clustered in large cities in the United States?

Urbanization & Suburbanization 🌆🏡

At this point in history, humans 👪 have settled the vast majority of the earth’s surface. Geographers break these settlements into three primary categories—urban (cities with lots of people), suburban (residential areas just outside cities), and rural (farm-based settlements far away from cities). Urbanization is simply the process of towns and cities growing 📈 after their initial settlement. This process is important because more than half of the world’s 7+ billion people now live in urban areas. Understanding where modern cities are growing fastest and why this process affects people worldwide is critical in fully understanding the significance of urban geography. Suburbanization occurs when people living within a city move to residential communities outside the city. In the United States, this process has been accelerating since World War II. 💨Although people move for many reasons, the following components of suburban lifestyle draw many urbanites to these communities: more space, less traffic and pollution, decreased crime rates, and lower population densities, to name a few. 🏡🚙🌳

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Distribution of Cities 🌆🌐

Geographers have developed models to better understand the different distribution patterns of cities within a country or region. Knowing the difference between rank-size rule 🥇🥈🥉 and primate cities 💪 is crucial to fully understand these distribution patterns. Some countries and regions have cities of all sizes spread out somewhat evenly (like the United States). In contrast, others have one dominant city where the majority of wealth 💲 and services are concentrated (like Mexico City). Christaller’s Central Place Theory is probably the most important urban model in developing an understanding of the distribution of different-sized settlements within a region. Using the concepts of threshold and range, the model helps geographers determine why certain services are found in nearly all settlements (gas stations ⛽), regardless of size, while other high-level services (professional sports arenas ⚽⚾🏀🏈) are only found in larger cities.    
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-lDQLzIIRlhPL.png?alt=media&token=7b31c3ea-6b35-462c-b2ba-9caa0569c98e

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

📚 Read: APHUG - The Size & Distribution of Cities 🎥 Watch: APHUG - Urban Challenges

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Growth of Cities 📈🌆

The locations of the world’s largest cities have changed over time due to increased economic development 💰💲💵💸 and globalization. 🌎 The largest cities in the world—megacities (10+ million population) and metacities (20+ million population)—are mostly located in low and medium-developed regions. In contrast, the most economically advanced countries and regions (United States, Western Europe) have a much smaller share of these types of settlements than in the past. The increased number of large urban settlements in less developed regions has created many challenges for leaders at varying scales of government while simultaneously increasing the interactions of these countries with wealthier states around the world. Although megacities and metacities are on the rise in less developed regions, global cities—ones with political, 📜 economic, 💲and cultural influence 👪👲👳 far beyond their own boundaries—are found primarily in the most highly developed countries.  
 

City Models 🌆🔎👀

In addition to the urban models that analyze distribution patterns within a country or region, geographers have also created urban land use models to better understand patterns within individual cities. The earliest models were based on North American cities in the first half of the 20th century (using the city of Chicago) and focused around a central business district (CBD) at the heart of the city where most commercial activities took place. 🏢💳👔💼💲As the economy became more advanced and people started to move, new urban models were developed to incorporate suburbanization that began in the 1950s. 🏡 The most recent urban models reflect the development of “edge cities” in the urban periphery, as more people and businesses have relocated to settlements outside the central city.
In addition to the North American urban models, several others were developed for less developed countries, which include the Latin American, African, and Southeast Asian City Models. While they all differ in some ways, each of these models reflects the influence of previous European colonizers and the adverse effects of rapid rural-to-urban migration occurring in the past half-century due to globalization. 🏙🏃

 

Urban Problems 🚓🚑🏫🚧🚦🚶🚎🚋🚇

The unit concludes with a careful examination of challenges within cities at different scales and locations throughout the world. Although not an exhaustive list, the following are challenges found in most urban areas throughout the world, regardless of economic development level:
  • Poverty—large numbers of people unemployed, reliant on government aid, and/or working in jobs without a livable wage.
  • Decaying infrastructure—roads, bridges, power, and sewage systems.
  • Housing shortages—for all social classes, but especially lower-income individuals and families.
  • Displacement of families following urban renewal efforts—including government housing projects and gentrified neighborhoods.
  • Homelessness—lack of affordable housing, limited services for homeless and impoverished.
  • LImited services (food, medical, education, etc.) for lower-income individuals and families.
  • Racial and ethnic discrimination—segregated neighborhoods, displacement of racial minorities due to gentrification, presence of food deserts in poor regions.
  • Crime—theft, homicide, and gang violence.
  • Pollution—including air (factory and vehicle emissions), water, waste disposal, and noise pollution.
  • Urban sprawl—the rapid expansion of suburban communities, which leads to a reduction in farmland, increased traffic congestion, etc.
📚 Read: APHUG - Challenges of Urban Changes

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