Urbanisation in India

If you go by the data released following Census 2011, India still lives in its villages. Only about 31 percent of India’s population lives in what are classified as urban areas. This infographic takes a closer look at this 31 percent.

The urbanisation ratio by state:


Delhi and Chandigarh are mostly urban. They are followed by the union territories of Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, and Puducherry. On the other extreme, Bihar, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh and Assam are among the least urbanised states in India.

Though the overall urbanisation proportion seems low at 31 percent, it is an improvement by four percentage points against the urbanisation as of the 2001 census. This increase in urbanisation, however, has not been uniform across states. Urbanisation in Kerala grew by over 20 percentage points (more likely explained by reclassification than by migration) while there was hardly any change in urbanisation in Himachal Pradesh.


A simple “urban-rural” classification hides more than it reveals. For example, in this classification, someone living in Bangalore (a city of 80 lakh people) is classified as ‘urban’ as is someone in a town of 50000 nearby. These are fundamentally two different kinds of urban settlements. Hence, it is important to look at the distribution of population by the size of the town they live in.

Arbitrarily drawing cutoffs at 1 lakh and 10 lakhs, the following graph shows the break-up of population across these buckets in each state. States with a total population of less that 1 Crore, and also Delhi (since it is a “city state”) have been left out.


While Kerala and Maharashtra have broadly the same urbanisation rate, what this shows is that the two states see very different kinds of urbanisation. Close to 40 percent of Kerala’s population lives in towns classified as ‘urban’ but with a population of less than 1 lakh. Only 10 percent of Maharashtra’s population lives in such towns, with over 25 percent living in cities of population of over 10 lakhs.

Nationally, about 10 percent of the population lives in cities of population 10 lakh and above, and another 10 percent lives in cities of population between 1 and 10 lakhs. A little over 10 percent of the population lives in areas classified as urban but with a population of less than 1 lakh.

Does urbanisation vary by gender?


The conventional wisdom is that men migrate to cities leaving their families behind in their villages, and the families follow later. This should suggest that the urbanisation rate for men is better.

In Tamil Nadu, Kerala and some of the states in the north east, the reverse is true. The urbanisation rate among women in these regions exceeds the urbanisation rate among men. In the rest of the country, though, the rate of male urbanisation exceeds female urbanisation.

Does greater urbanisation lead to greater literacy? It is noticeabe that states with a higher degree of urbanisation have higher literacy.


However, is there a causal relationship? A look at the difference between urban and rural literacy by state answers this:


While the gap between urban and rural literacy is narrow in states such as Kerala, the gap is really wide in Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

Finally, is there a link between urbanisation and female foeticide? A look at the child sex ration in 0-6 years age group in rural and urban regions by state, along with their difference, answers this question.


In most states, the sex ratios in 0-6 age group (females per 1000 males) is higher in rural than in urban areas.