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Global urban populations are projected to increase by 2.5 billion over the next 30 years. Yet, there is limited understanding of how this growth will affect urban land expansion (ULE). Here, we develop a large-scale study to test explicitly the relative importance of urban population and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in affecting ULE for different regions, economic development levels and governance types for 300+ cities. Our results show that population growth, more than GDP, is consistently the dominant determinant of ULE during 1970–2014. However, the effect of GDP growth on ULE increases in importance after 2000. In countries with strong governance, economic growth contributes more to ULE than population growth. We find that urban population growth and ULE are correlated but this relationship varies for countries at different developmental stages. Lastly, this study illustrates that good governance is a necessary condition for economic growth to affect ULE.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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