Widening Gulf Between Urban And Rural Areas Reaches A Tipping Point
The world’s political geography is being transformed by surging migration from rural to urban areas, straining the web of connections between the two. Divergences are widening on numerous dimensions, such as values, age, education, power and prosperity. What if a tipping point is reached at which the urban-rural divide becomes so sharp that the unity of states begins to erode?
Domestically, divergent values between urban and rural areas are already fuelling polarization and electoral volatility in many countries. Greater bitterness and rivalry could lead to localized nativism and even violent clashes. Separatist movements might break through in wealthy city-regions that resent diverting revenues to poorer rural areas with which they feel diminishing affinity. Leading cities might look to bypass national structures and play an international role directly. Economically, accelerating urban migration could lead to rural depopulation and the decline of local economies, with potential food security implications in some countries.
Better long-term planning—for both expanding cities and rural areas at risk of decline—might help to mitigate these dangers. Stronger transport and communications links could help to soften the urban-rural divide. Resources will be needed, which might require more fiscal creativity, such as finding ways to decentralize revenue-raising powers or more widely redistribute the productivity gains that urbanization generates.