An urban area is a human settlement with high population density and infrastructure of built environment. Urban areas are created through urbanization and are categorized by urban morphology as cities , towns, conurbations or suburbs. In urbanism, the term contrasts to rural areas such as villages and hamlets and in urban sociology or urban anthropology it contrasts with natural environment . The creation of early predecessors of urban areas during the urban revolution led to the creation of human civilization with modern urban planning, which along with other human activities such as exploitation of natural resources leads to human impact on the environment.
The world 's urban population in 1950 of just 746 million has increased to 3.9 billion in the decades since. In 2009, the number of people living in urban areas (3.42 billion) surpassed the number living in rural areas (3.41 billion) and since then the world has become more urban than rural. This was the first time that the majority of the world 's population lived in a city . In 2014 there were 7.2 billion people living on the planet , of which the global urban population comprised 3.9 billion. The Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs at that time predicted the urban population would grow to 6.4 billion by 2050, with 37% of that growth to come from three countries : China , India and Nigeria .
Urban areas are created and further developed by the process of urbanization.