Inequality mapping

This map of travel time to cities shows places where trips take only minutes (bright yellow) versus where they take weeks (purple). Credit: The Malaria Atlas Project, University of Oxford

Geography

For many, it’s a long way to the city

Access to urban centres is vastly unequal.

Nearly half of the residents of low-income countries live more than one hour’s travel from a city, where vital resources such as education and health care are concentrated.

Access to schools, jobs and hospitals is essential for human well-being. Although 80% of the global population lives within an hour of a city, accessibility varies widely between high- and low-income countries. Daniel Weiss at the University of Oxford, UK, and his colleagues mapped overland travel time to thousands of cities worldwide. They found that nine out of ten people in wealthy countries, mainly in Europe and North America, can reach a city within an hour, compared to just 50% of people in low-income countries, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa.

Improving access to cities and the economic, educational and health benefits they offer is vital for advancing fair and sustainable development, the authors say.