Urban Hierarchy

Urban areas exhibit a large range of population sizes—from hamlets to global cities—each having a corresponding economic role within the urban system. Settlements with larger populations that provide more and diverse services are higher up the urban hierarchy. Settlements with smaller populations and a limited number and type of services are further down the urban hierarchy. The size and distribution of urban areas within this system have important implications for economic development.

The urban hierarchy may be illustrated by a pyramid where the smallest settlements (hamlets) are at the bottom of the pyramid and global cities are at the top (Figure 1). Settlements at the bottom of the pyramid have small, rural populations and contain a small number and limited variety of economic services within ...

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