Funded Grants

Towards a predictive theory of social organization and dynamics in cities

The need for an integrated scientific understanding of urbanization

Urbanization is the most widespread and systematic social development happening worldwide today. According to the United Nations, sometime in the last two years humanity crossed an historic threshold with more than half of the world’s population now living in cities. China and India, the largest among other fast developing nations, are less than 50% urbanized, but changing at a breakneck pace. Worldwide, some three billion people are expected to migrate to cities in the next few decades. In the United States and other developed nations the fraction of urban population is still increasing, with poorly understood implications for patterns of land use, human behavior, resource consumption and economic development.

Can a highly urbanized world be sustainable? Will it be stable, or more susceptible to natural disasters and social instability? Can we understand the forces that lead so many people across the globe to move to cities? Can we predict the consequences of such monumental and unprecedented social change?

These and similar questions have remained difficult scientific puzzles. As a consequence, public policy targeting urban development has had a checkered history, reporting few successes even where substantial investments have been made, such as in attempts to revive cities of the American rust belt.

Urbanization has always been connected with social and economic development. Historically, periods of cultural flourishing and economic vitality