Living Facts

December 7, 2009

MAS Context selects some fascinating facts and numbers about the way we live around the world. Because what happens in downtown Tokyo is a little different to what happens in the storm tunnels in Las Vegas. However, we call both places home.


Mas issue living facts 01

New York City, 2009. © Iker Gil.

In 1950, 29% of the world population lived in cities. By 2050, 70% of the world population will live in cities.

In 1950, the world population density was 19 persons per square kilometer. By 2050, the world population density will be 68 persons per square kilometer.

There are more than 400 urban agglomerations in the world with over 1 million people.

Tokyo is the largest urban agglomeration in the world with a population of 33.8 million.

With current living consumptions levels, on average each person needs 2.2 global hectares to support the demands they place on the environment. However, the planet is only able to meet consumption levels of 1.8 global hectares per person.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average home size in the United States was 2,330 square feet in 2004, up from 1,400 square feet in 1970.

The Istana Nurul Iman palace, official residence of the Sultan of Brunei, is the world’s largest residence of any type. It contains 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, and a floor area of 2,152,782 square feet (200,000 m²). Amenities include 5 swimming pools, an air conditioned stable for 200 polo ponies, a 110-car garage, a banquet hall for 4,000 guests, and a mosque accommodating 1,500 people.

As homeownership rates rose, eventually reaching a peak of nearly 70% in 2004—our society became less footloose. Last year fewer Americans moved, as a percentage of the population, than in any year since the Census Bureau started tracking address changes in the late 1940s.

In the US, there were more than 3.1 million foreclosure filings issued during 2008, which means that one of every 54 households received a notice last year.

At the peak of the housing boom in 2006, there were about 800,000 building permits issued in Spain, about the same as France, Germany, and Belgium combined.

According to estimates there are about 1 billion squatters in the world today—one of every six people on the planet. Within 25 years, their number will grow to 2 billion, and 1/4 of the world’s population will be squatters.

There were some 42 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2008. This includes 15.2 million refugees, 827,000 asylum-seekers (pending cases) and 26 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Pakistan is host to the largest number of refugees worldwide (1.8 million), followed by the Syrian Arab Republic (1.1 million) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (980,000).

In 2005, Shanghai had a floating population of 4.3 million, corresponding to almost 25% of its total population.

It is estimated that the population living in the storm tunnels under Las Vegas Strip could be as many as 700.

According to the Mercer 2009 Quality of Living Survey, Vienna has passed Zurich to take the top spot as the world’s city with the best quality of living. Geneva retains its position in third place, while Vancouver and Auckland are now fourth in the rankings.

According to a report by UBS, Oslo, Zurich, Copenhagen, Geneva and Tokyo are the most expensive cities in 2009.

Harare, Zimbabwe, has the highest cost of living for Americans working for private companies abroad—143 % higher than Washington, D.C.

New research by the Gallup Organization finds that 700 million people—16% of the world’s total population—would like to move to a different country than the one they currently call home.

In 2007, Iceland was the most livable country in the world. The least livable country was Sierra Leone.