Special Report

The 50 Most Densely Populated Cities in the World

Though cities have served as cultural and economic hubs throughout history, mass urbanization as we know it was a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. Industrialization fueled the rapid growth of cities worldwide, beginning in England and the United States in the 1800s, and continuing in Asian, African, and South and Central American countries in latermore recent decades. 

As people throughout the world flock to cities for economic opportunities, overcrowding is a growing concern. In hundreds of cities worldwide, every square mile is home to tens of thousands of people. Currently, about half the global population is estimated to live in urban areas. By 2050, that share is projected to grow to two-thirds.

Using data from the June 2021 edition of the World Urban Areas report from Demographia, an urban development research group, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most densely populated cities in the world. Rankings are based on the average number of people per square mile living in a given urban area. 

It is important to note that cities are not ranked on their official municipal boundaries, but rather, the built-up land areas that, as described in the report, “function as an integrated economic unit, linked together by commuting flows, social and economic interactions.” By this definition, the New York City area has a population density of 4,477 people per square mile. However, the borough of Manhattan alone has a population density of 70,826 people per square mile.

Several of the most densely populated cities on this list are located in Africa and South America. However, the majority of cities on this list are in Asia — including over two dozen in India. No U.S. cities madke the list. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the most densely populated cities in the world are also some of the most populous cities, home to over 10 million people. Here is a look at the world’s 33 megacities.

Click here to see the 50 most densely populated cities in the world.

To determine the 50 most densely populated cities in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on population density in global urban areas from the June 2021 edition of the World Urban Areas report from urban development website Demographia. Urban areas with at least 500,000 residents were ranked based on the number of people per square mile of built-up land area. Data on total population and land area also came from the Demographia report.