Joakim Nygård Archive Linked About

Urban Scaling

25 Jan 2011

Santa Fe Institute reports on findings by Luis Bettencourt and colleagues of new relations between the relative size of a city and various statistical properties of its inhabitants:

The researchers have shown, in fact, that with each doubling of city population, each inhabitant is, on average, 15 percent wealthier, 15 percent more productive, 15 percent more innovative, and 15 percent more likely to be victimized by violent crime regardless of the city’s geography or the decade in which you pull the data.

Remarkably, this 15 percent rule holds for a number of other statistics as well – so much so that if you tell Bettencourt and West the population of an anonymous city, they can tell you the average speed at which its inhabitants walk.

Fascinating insight that just might allow us to better plan for the continuing urbanization.

“Almost anything that you can measure about a city scales nonlinearly, either showing economies in infrastructure or per capita gains in socioeconomic quantities,” Bettencourt says. “This is the reason we have cities in the first place. But if you don’t correct for these effects, you are not capturing the essence of particular places.”