I always seem to hear two contradicting opinions regarding the pros and cons of urban living. When people talk about the benefits of urban living more often than not they will talk about the economic opportunity, cultural stimulus, and so on. The alternative to these urban advantageous people are others who believe the negative effects of urban living; low social integration, sparse interpersonal relationship, lack of nature, and increased stress and discomfort, over way the benefits.
Tired of hearing both arguments with out knowing if there is any factual backing for either I investigated both sides of the argument and found surprising information. It turns out, the while the former of the two arguments initially seems viable; it is not supported by fact. According to the 2000 census, the average income per capita of an individual living in an American city is in fact lower than the national average, while the percentage of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher living in the city is considerably greater than that of the national average.
This leaves us with the later of the two possessions. A while back, a man rented a van and intentionally ran over people in a crowded part of Tokyo. He got out of the vehicle and then proceeded to stab people randomly. Seven people died and another 14 were wounded. He explained that he was “tired of life”. I wonder if moving from Aomori, a remote rural part of Japan where the suspect is from, to Tokyo, a dense metropolis, was a factor in his tragic actions. Marc Berman, a psychologist at the University of Michigan and lead author of a new study that measured the cognitive deficits caused by a short urban walk, has concluded through his studies that living in the city does in fact have a dramatic effect on the human psyche. Berman found that even a short walk through an urban setting could greatly impair a person’s mental capability. What’s more, with the removal of nature, the physical health of subjects suffers. Noise, and artificial light have also been linked to increased stress. So, with the combination of impaired mental capabilities, poor physical health, and increased stress with no actual benefits I have to wonder why, for the first time in history more people world wide choose to live in urban settings than the beautiful, peaceful open expanse that surrounds the cities?