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Megacities are giant cities. The term has been in common use since the 1980s to characterize metropolitan areas with very large total populations. Most commonly, specialists and UN demographers use the term in comparative urban studies, referring to metropolitan areas with more than 8 or 10 million inhabitants. The underlying argument is that the population size of these metropolitan areas gives them special characteristics. Attention typically focuses on the total population of the metropolitan area--usually a major city and its surrounding suburbs.

Metropolitan areas, also known as urban agglomerations, are notoriously difficult to define because administrative definitions vary from country to country and because the cities integrate in many different ways with their surrounding regions. In less developed countries, the rural poor may seek work in the cities as migrant laborers, and villages become integrated with metropolitan labor markets.

On the urban fringe, agriculture, factory farming, and industries like brickmaking intensify to meet metropolitan demand, while commercial strips often line the intercity highways. In more developed countries, towns and villages around the metropolis may evolve into satellite, bedroom, second-home, and recreational communities, while suburbs may sprawl outward at lower and lower densities. Commuters and suburbanites may seek to enjoy rural landscapes and simulate rural lifestyles yet gain their livelihoods in the metropolitan economy. Planners may seek to preserve rural and wilderness areas as greenbelts and parks, but urban development often simply leapfrogs the preserved areas, creating new metropolitan satellites.

As world population rises and urbanization continues, the proportion of the world's megacities located in less developed countries increases, and the threshold size for megacity definition tends to rise. In 1950, only one metropolitan area in the world, New York, had more than 10 million inhabitants....
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