Monday, April 20, 2020

We are moving to a new home: Urban Demographics 2.0

NOTE: This website has moved to a new address at This content has not been updated since April 2020.

After 1530 blog posts and 471 thousand pageviews over a period of 9 years and 10 months, we are moving to Urban Demographics 2.0, at urbandemographics.orgI will keep a frozen version of this blogspot website online for the record, but I won't be updating any content.

Blogger has been a good companion for a long time, but I felt it was time to move on to a more flexible and versatile platform. Urban Demographics 2.0 is entirely written from within R using blogdown and Hugo. You can find more info in the 1st post of the new website :)

If you follow UD updates via RSS, I am trying move our feed to the new website so you don't have to do anything. I hope this won't break things, but this is our new feed if you want to make sure not to miss any new posts. The Twitter and Facebook channels remain unchanged.

See you on the other side

Photo by Toa Heftiba


Monday, April 13, 2020

The delineation and growth of metropolitan areas in the world between 2000 and 2015

A talented team at the OECD and the European Union have developed a consistent method to delineate metropolitan areas – or functional urban areas (FUAs) – in the entire world. They recently published an open access paper where the explain the method and use it to analyze the population growth of metropolitan areas in the world between 2000 and 2015. You can find more info about the paper below and  a geopackage data set of  FUAs can downloaded from here

Moreno-Monroy, A. I., Schiavina, M., & Veneri, P. (2020). Metropolitan areas in the world. Delineation and population trends. Journal of Urban Economics, 103242. 

This paper presents a novel method to delineate metropolitan areas – or functional urban areas (FUAs) – in the entire world and assesses their population trends. According to the definition developed by the OECD and the European Union, FUAs are composed of high-density urban centres with at least 50 thousand people plus their surrounding commuting zones. The latter represent the urban centres’ areas of influence in terms of labour market flows. The proposed method combines a functional and a morphological approach to overcome the dependency on travel-to-work data to define commuting zones and allow a global delineation. It relies on a probabilistic approach and the use of population and travel impedance gridded data across the globe. Results show that around 3.9 billion people, making up 53% of the world population, live in 8,790 FUAs, out of which 17% live in their commuting zones. Between 2000 and 2015, population growth was higher in larger FUAs, highlighting a general trend toward higher concentration of the metropolitan population. Commuting zones grew faster than urban centres, though with heterogeneous patterns across world regions, income levels and metropolitan size.

Related posts:

Friday, April 10, 2020

COVID-19 pandemic and access to healthcare in Brazil's largest cities

The Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea) published yesterday our study looking at 'Urban mobility and access to the healthcare system by patients with suspected and severe cases of COVID-19 in the 20 largest cities of Brazil'. The work is published in Portuguese but there is a Twitter thread with the main findings. In any case, I included a summary of the publication in English below.

obs. This is a by-product of the Access to Opportunities Project. I'm grateful for an amazing team of co-authors who helped me put this piece together in such a short time.


The Covid-19 epidemic crisis is causing a rapid growth in the number of hospitalizations for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Brazil. According to recent studies, this could soon overload the country's public health system (SUS). As of this writing, most of the confirmed cases of Covid-19 are concentrated in the country's largest cities, where the spread of the disease is at a rapid pace and affecting a growing number of people in disadvantaged communities.

In this policy report, we analyze accessibility to healthcare services in Brazil's 20 largest cities. The research focuses on how easily patients with suspected and severe cases of COVID-19 could reach public health facilities. The study has two purposes:
  1. In the first half of the report we estimate how many vulnerable people (low-income above 50 years old) live in areas with poor access to healthcare facilities that could either screen suspected cases of Covid-19 or provide hospitalization of severe cases with the support of ICU beds and mechanical ventilators.
  2. In the second half, we estimate the ratio between the number of ICU beds and mechanical ventilators available at each hospital and the population living withing its catchment area.
These two analyses combined provide actionable information to local authorities. The study puts disadvantaged communities with poor access to health services on the map, indicating in which neighborhoods local authorities could build makeshift hospitals or develop strategies via pre-hospital care with mobile units or through the work of health community agents. This research also helps local authorities identify which hospitals could more likely struggle with the rising demand for hospitalizations, and hence would need investments to expand capacity.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Assorted Links on COVID19

I must say I've been feeling saturated and underwhelmed by the number of data analysts who suddenly became public health and epidemiology experts creating so many data dashboards on COVID-19. There I said it.

Having said that, there many interesting and intelligent people working to understand how the COVID-19 epidemic affects and is affected by demography and human mobility patterns, and how these relationships intersect with and reveal our socioeconomic inequities. I've selected some of the best pieces on the coronavirus crisis I've come across so far.
  1. Our World in Data: possibly one the best websites to get updated data and interactive visualizations, by Max Roser and an amazing team at Oxford.

  2. Google published a series of Community Mobility Reports ... in PDF format !!! Fortunately, you can find the data in .csv here, scraped by Vitor Batista

  3. The effect of human mobility and control measures on the COVID-19 epidemic in China. Paper by Moritz Kraemer et al.

  4. Changes in nighttime lights reveal a dramatic decrease in Wuhan following the COVID-19 outbreak, via Joshua Stevens (one of  my favorite Twitter accounts)

  5. Kuan Butts shows the dramatic impact quarantining has had in road traffic in major cities around the world

  6. How much is air traffic down from normal levels? More than half, by Niko Kommenda for The Guardian

  7. Satellite images show pollution on the decline in the US and Europe

  8. The coronavirus epidemic has also significantly decreased public transport ridershiprestaurant bookings, retail activities, energy use and congestion levels

  9. My all favorite. Article on the NYT illustrate how quarantine is a class and racial privilege. Smartphone location data reveals how many lower-income workers continue to move around in cities across the U.S., while wealthier people 'can afford' to stay home and limit their exposure to the coronavirus. Brilliant piece by Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Denise Lu and Gabriel Dance.