Thursday, November 5, 2009

Istanbul by the numbers

People who haven't been here often ask me to compare Istanbul to other cities; having been to sadly few of the world's largest ones, the best I can usually muster is a "Uh, it's kind of like New York, except I think even bigger?" But now, armed with some data from a conference I recently attended on the future of cities, I can confidently say that:

  • Istanbul has more people than London, New York City, or Mexico City, and quite a bit fewer than Shanghai.*

  • It is growing faster than Mumbai or São Paulo, going from around 1 million people in 1950 to some 14 to 15 million today. (The image at right shows the dramatic growth in the city's developed area between 1950 and 2000.)

  • In its central area (where I live), Istanbul is denser than New York and more than twice as dense as London.

  • It is more polluted than Mexico City, and not far behind Mumbai.

  • Its residents are very worried about crime, even though the murder rate is less than half of that in New York.

  • Its quality of life (according to the U.N.'s Human Development Index) is considered higher than that in Johannesburg, but lower than that in São Paulo or Shanghai.
Of course, numbers don't say anything about which city's views are the best, or whose street vendors are the loudest, or any of the other things that make urban life interesting. For that, you've just got to see for yourself.

* We're talking city proper here, not metropolitan area.

2 comments:

Tactless Wonder said...

The DF hit 19 million in 2008...you sure Istanbul has more? Not that it's the most reliable or anything, but wikipeadia says 15 mil for Istanbul.

But seriously, when you get to numbers that big? I don't think it becomes that big a difference...

Jen said...

I think it depends on how you define it, this institute's research puts Mexico City proper at 8,815,319, but the whole metropolitan area at 19,239,910... while Istanbul proper has 12,697,164. But you're right, the mind reels either way...!