The Atlas of Urban Expansion
Data stories | Historic urban maps | Raw data
The Atlas of Urban Expansion collects and analyzes data on the quantity and quality of urban expansion in a stratified global sample of 200 cities.

Analyze urban data with The Atlas of Urban Expansion

The world contains 4,231 cities that have a population of over 100,000 or more. The Atlas of Urban Expansion data portal contains in-depth urban data from 200 cities as well as detailed guidelines of how this data collection process was done.

There is a wealth of urban data available for 200 cities in the study. After selecting a city you have access to high-level urban statistics such as population, the extent of the city, and the density of the city. The entire platform is beautifully made making it fun to look through.

Urban data Guatemala City

One complaint is that it is currently not possible to compare cities on this platform. It would be fascinating to, for instance, compare the density of cities. However, all of the urban data can be downloading in CSV format which allows you to make such a comparison.

The platform features an urban extent map, allowing the user to view historic urban data and see how the landscape of each city changed over the past 20 years.

Urban data Kampala Urban Extent

For some cities, presumably those with enough historic urban data, there are videos that showcase the expansion of the city over the course of multiple centuries.

Urban expansion Teheran urban data

The Atlas of Urban Expansion is an ongoing research effort between UN-HABITAT, New York University and The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. The team has currently completed two out of the three phases of research. The third phase will shed light on household incomes and rent prices throughout the cities. We look forward to the results of this research.

Explore urban data:

  • Data stories - Choose a city to explore urban data about that city
  • Historic urban maps - Watch cities grow through time
  • Raw data - Download static maps or .shp files to use in your GIS software of choice
IATI Development portal


Sign up to our newsletter so we can keep you up to date with the latest resources.