Missing millions: undercounting urbanization in India


The measurement and characterization of urbanization crucially depends upon defining what counts as urban. The government of India estimates that only 31% of the population is urban. We show that this is an artifact of the definition of urbanity and an underestimate of the level of urbanization in India. We use a random forest-based model to create a high-resolution (~ 100 m) population grid from district-level data available from the Indian Census for 2001 and 2011, a novel application of such methods to create temporally consistent population grids. We then apply a community-detection clustering algorithm to construct urban agglomerations for the entire country. Compared with the 2011 official statistics, we estimate 12% more of urban population, but find fewer mid-size cities. We also identify urban agglomerations that span jurisdictional boundaries across large portions of Kerala and the Gangetic Plain.

Population and Environment