Special Report

30 Most Crowded Cities in the World

Detailed findings & methodology:

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is the most crowded city in the world, with 1.4 million residents sharing less than two square miles. The Mongolian capital’s mayor even restricted migration to the city in 2017 to try and curb the issue, as Ulaanbaatar is already in the midst of a housing crisis. Most of the city’s population lives in unplanned neighborhoods. These hastily constructed living spaces may be vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes and typically have no central heating.

Some 21 of the world’s 30 most crowded cities are in Asia. Indonesia is home to six of these cities, followed by Japan, which has five, and the Philippines and Cambodia with two apiece. From 2000 to 2010, population density in large Asian cities increased more quickly than researchers predicted. Just five of the most crowded cities in the world are in Latin America; three of them are in Europe; and just one — New York City — is in North America.

Asia’s population density is nearly 55 people per square mile. The next most-crowded continent is Africa with 15.6 people per square mile. Europe and Latin America have very similar population densities, with 12.9 and 12.1 people per square mile, respectively. North America is much more spread out, with 7.4 people per square mile. Oceania is by far the roomiest continent, with just 1.8 people per square mile.

These numbers are estimates, as it would be virtually impossible to count the exact number of people in these large cities and urban areas. Some countries, even large ones like India and China, do not have data on their urban populations and surface area available for the most recent United Nations Demographic Yearbook, which makes it impossible to determine their population densities. As such, Chinese and Indian cities, as well as others, are not included on this list.

To determine the most crowded cities in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed population and land area estimates for the city proper using data from the United Nations’ Demographic Yearbook. The UN defines the city proper as a locality with legally fixed boundaries and an administratively recognized urban status. All cities on this list, except for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic relied on population and surface area data based on the city proper. Santo Domingo was ranked based on the population and surface area of its urban agglomeration. Major metropolitan areas that lacked either population figures or surface area data were not considered.

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