Urban Zone – Concept, activities and what urban life is like

We explain what an urban area is, what urban life is like and its economic activities. Also differences with a rural area.

urban area city
The urban area is the characteristic space of the contemporary human being.

What is an urban area?

It is called an urban area, urban space, urban environment or urban center to the landscapes of cities, as opposed to rural areas, where agricultural activity is carried out, or also to peri-urban areas, which are the bordering space between the first two. However, it is not always easy to clearly distinguish one from the other, since over time the rural world has been urbanizing in some way.

Urban spaces are defined through a functional logic, that is to say, economic, since The secondary sector -industrial- and the service sector predominate in them, instead of the primary sector, as in rural areas.

In addition, they are spaces of great population concentration, in which all kinds of constructions and infrastructures are carried out, becoming the typical, characteristic space of the contemporary human being. Furthermore, this is where political power comes from, since It is where most of the institutions of a country are based.

Urban areas flourished hand in hand with industrialization and capitalism, so that they have not always existed as they do today, nor have they been the center of importance of our society. In fact, the medieval world was, for almost 15 centuries, an eminently agrarian world.

Today, in contrast, cities occupy less than 3% of the total surface of the planet, but consume around 60 to 70% of the natural and energy resources available to humanity.

Characteristics of urban life

Life in the urban area is characterized, broadly speaking, by the following:

  • Predominance of the industrial fiscal year: the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy (manufacturing and services). Raw material and food, on the other hand, usually come from outside.
  • A huge population concentration, whose upper limits are constituted by the great megalopolises of more than 10,000,000 inhabitants. In contrast, there is no fixed limit on how many residents are necessary for a settlement to be considered an urban area.
  • Most of the basic services and administrative and / or bureaucratic instances of the State are present in urban areas. They are the logistical heart of the State.
  • The rhythms of life are often frantic, as well as the displacement of public transport, and life passes in smaller spaces, with relatively low presence of vegetation.
  • In the urban area, living costs are almost always higher, being able to vary significantly from one city to another, or from one city to the country. Especially in real estate.

Economic activities in the urban area

urban area industry
Urban industries are only light or medium.

The economy of urban areas revolves around industry and commerce, with a noticeable predominance, as we said before, of the manufacturing and services economic sectors. Raw materials and energy, on the other hand, tend to come from outside, so that cities are more or less dependent systems. The most characteristic economic activities of urban spaces are:

  • Industrial production, especially with regard to light and medium industries, given that the level of pollution from basic or heavy industries is often incompatible with the population density of cities. Thus, it is common to find industries dedicated to: the manufacture of paper and the printing of books, the assembly of auto parts, the manufacture of electronic devices, the textile manufacture or the packaging of substances and food.
  • Construction, one of the key sectors for the growth of the urban area, which takes the basic materials from heavy industry and with them builds houses, buildings or facilities for trade, production or also public works: highways, bridges, squares, etc.
  • Wholesale and retail trade, either from products manufactured in the city itself (or in others) or from agriculture, which are received and offered to a consuming public through a network of establishments and stores of a different nature, or supplied to the establishments of the service sector. This is the case of hardware stores, bookstores, supermarkets, paint stores, etc.
  • The tertiary or service sector, which does not offer processed products but rather specific activities that end in themselves and their consumption. Such is the case of restaurants, consulting companies, travel agencies, electricity, telephone, cable TV or Internet services, and also urban or interurban public transport services.

Difference between urban and rural areas

The differences between the urban area and the rural area, that is, between the city and the countryside, can be summarized as:

Urban zoneRural zone
High population density, reaching several million inhabitants per city.Low population density, since the inhabitants live apart from each other and in the open air.
Easy and fast access to services, State institutions and commercial or distribution networks (ports, airports, etc.).Greater degree of relative isolation with respect to the bureaucratic nucleus of the State and the main commercial networks.
High level of industrialization, with increased pollution and a hectic way of life.Low level of industrialization, with lower pollution margins and a more peaceful life.
High demand for land that drives up real estate prices and maximizes the use of space.Low demand for land to live in, which moderates real estate prices as there is more space available.
Predominance of the secondary and tertiary economic sectors.Predominance of the primary economic sector, agriculture or basic industries.

Urban migrations

Urban migrations are the movements of people that occur between one city and another, or those that occur from the rural area and cities (rural-urban migration).

Both are a common phenomenon in the contemporary industrial world, and had their beginning in the great exodus from agriculture to the city that the modern world starred in with the beginning of industrial capitalism: millions of peasants abandoned their rural homes and moved to the cities, where they gave rise to the working class (proletariat).

Migrations are a usual part of urban life, and can occur between different countries, different regions of the same country or even between different sectors of the same urban area (from the suburbs to the center, for example).