AP Human Geography Exam
Vocabulary Definitions
Unit 6: Urban Geography
(Ch. 8 in Barron's)

The following vocabulary items can be found in your review book and class handouts.  These identifications and concepts do not necessarily constitute all that will be covered on the exam.

Unit 1

Nature & Perspectives

Unit 2


Unit 3


Unit 4


Unit 5


Unit 6


Units 7&8


Unit 9

Environmental & Medical


Early urbanization: emerging from the First Agricultural Revolution

-Egalitarian society: civilization in which all people are equal; typical of most hunter-gatherer societies.

-Stratified society: civilization in which people exist in different classes; the development of farming and early cities began this process.

-Formative era: time where the major urban hearths came into exist stance (e.g., for the Fertile Crescent this occurred between 7,000 – 5,000 BCE (Before Common Era – same as BC (Before Christ)).

-Urban elite: group of socially, politically, or economically dominant figures in a society.

-Theocratic center: focus of religious activity or importance.

Early examples: Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome (see reading guide)
Medieval Optimum (Medieval Warm Period):
a time of warm weather around CE 800-1300 (Common Era – same as AD (Anno Domini) during the European Medieval period.  The effect may largely have been focused in the Northern Atlantic.

Little Ice Age (16th - 19th c.): period of global cooling after the Medieval Warm Period (~9th c. to 14th c.); greatly affected the northern empires of Rome and China (e.g., encouraged the migration of people to the cities in England due to shrinking farmlands providing factories with an abundant supply of cheap labor.
Societal Classification – Gideon Sjoberg;
cities changed over time:

-Folk-preliterate: earliest cities, predating written languages.

-Feudal: arose during the Middle Ages which actually stagnated urban growth in Europe; fostered a dependent relationship between wealthy landowners and peasants – provided few alternative economic alternatives.

-Preindustrial: found in societies without sophisticated machine technology, where human and animal labor form the basis for economic production (no city moved past this stage until the Industrial Revolution).

-Urban-industrial: predominate in the modernized nations of Western Europe, America, Japan (and to a lesser extent where their cultures have globalized) where productivity through machines, and energy sources from fossil fuels and atomic power phenomenally expand economic productivity.

Urban banana (crescent-shaped zone): urbanized zone that spread from India and the Far East (China & Japan) across the Islamic Empires, and into Europe; followed mostly along the silk and spice trade routes.
Medieval city:
European-style city with high density of development, narrow buildings, and an ornate church at the city center, with high walls for defense (walls proved futile when gunpowder made its way into Europe by the 1300s).

Mercantile city: Atlantic maritime trade disrupted old trade routes & centers of power starting in the 1500s (from interior to coastal ports); central square became focus (“downtown”), these cities became nodes of a network of trade; brought huge riches to Europe (e.g. Lisbon, Amsterdam, London, …).

Manufacturing city: grew out of the Industrial Revolution and the “Little Ice Age”; associated w/ mushrooming population, factories, tenement buildings, railroads, …; poor living & health conditions; cities improved w/ government intervention, city planning, and zoning, …

Modern city: (modern architecture) little attention is spent on building aesthetics or ornate designs; improved transportation & road systems has allowed greater complexity, multiple CBDs, and dispersal into the suburbs; the hallmark of American life.
Postmodernism: (postmodern architecture)
architecture & design developed for look & commerce (may connect to historical roots); a reaction to feeling of sterile alienation some had to modern architecture; city spaces become more people-friendly.
Agglomeration: (nucleation)
clustering of people or businesses for mutual benefits of close proximity; can share labor pools, technological and financial amenities, and ancillary industries (support large-scale industries).

Deglomeration: process of industrial deconcentration in response to technological advances and/or increasing costs due to congestion and competition.

Urban hierarchy: ranking of settlements according to their size and economic functions.

-Hamlet: lowest level of settlements (often not urban); offers few if any services.

-Village: clustered human settlement larger than a hamlet and generally offering several services.

-Town: clustered human settlement larger than a village; may range from a few to thousands of inhabitants (even hundreds of thousands); generally many goods and services are available.

-City: clustered conglomeration of people and buildings together serving as a center of politics, culture, and economics; a town may have outskirts, but virtually all cities have suburbs (hinterlands).

-Metropolis: usually contains several urbanized areas and suburbs that act together as a coherent economic whole.

Hinterland: literally “country behind”; refers to the surrounding area served by an urban center (the heartland).

Megalopolis: (e.g. conurbation such as Bosnywash, SanSan, ChiPitts,…)  occur predominantly in MDCs; large coalescing supercities that were originally separate but have expanded and joined together.
occur predominantly in LDCs; high population growth and migration cause these cities to attract massive amounts of population since WWII; tend to be plagued by chaotic and unplanned sprawling growth, pollution, and widespread poverty.
Urban components-

-CBD (central business district): location of skyscrapers and companies (would always be the center of the 3 urban models, many people commute, few actually live there)

-Central city: urban area that is not suburban; generally the older or original city surrounded by the newer suburbs.

-Inner city: urban area around the CBD; typically poorer and more run down in the US and other long-developed states; typically more rich upscale in less-developed states.

-Ghetto: inner cities that become dilapidated centers of poverty, as affluent whites move out of the suburbs (white flight) and immigrants and poorer people vie for scarce jobs and resources.

-Node: geographical centers of activity; large cities have numerous nodes.

-Suburb: residential communities, located outside of city centers; usually homogeneous in terms of population and ethnicity.

-Exurb: ring of prosperous communities beyond the suburbs that are commuter towns for an urban area; began to emerge in the 1970s when rampant crime and urban decay (when part of a city falls into disrepair - due to deindustrialization, depopulation, high unemployment, ...) in U.S. cities were the primary push factors; more recently since house prices have skyrocketed, middle-class people who want a large yard or farm are pushed beyond suburban counties and into “exurbs”.

Urban sprawl: process of expansive suburban development over large areas; the automobile provides the primary source of transportation.

New Urbanism: urban design originating in the US during the 1980s to work against sprawl; characterized by organized urban planning, suburban infill (filling in unused space), and are designed to be walkable (Celebration, Florida)

Central place theory (Walter Christaller): seeks to explain the number, size and location of human settlements in an urban system; settlements simply function as 'central places' providing services to surrounding areas; organized by hexagons to eliminate unserved or overlapping market areas.

-Central goods and services: provided only at a central place, or city (available to consumers in a surrounding region).

-Range of sale (breaking point): maximum distance people will travel for a good or service (economic reach).

-Threshold: the minimum number of customers needed to keep the business running

-Complementary region: the market area; an exclusive hinterland w/ a monopoly on a certain good or service.

Urban models-

-John Borchert's model: (1967); recognized four epochs in the evolution of the American metropolis based on the impact of transportation & communication:

    1) Sail-Wagon Epoch (1790-1830) – associated with low technology

    2) Iron Horse Epoch (1830-70); steam-powered locomotive & spreading rails

    3) Steel-Rail Epoch (1870-1920); full impact of Ind. Rev. (steel), hinterlands expand

    4) Auto-Air-Amenity Epoch (1920-70); gas-powered internal combustion engine

    High Technology Epoch (1970-today ); expansion of service & information industries (not part of Borchert’s model)

-Concentric zone (1920s; Ernest Burgess): based on his studies of Chicago: 1) CBD, 2) Zone of transition (residential deterioration & light industry), 3) Blue-collar workers,
4) Middle-class, 5) outer suburban ring; the model is dynamic (as the city grows, the inner rings encroach on the outer ones).

-Sector: (1939; Homer Hoyt) urban growth creates a pie-shaped urban structure due, in part, to the advancement of transportation like the electric trolley (e.g. low-income areas could extend from the CBD to the outer edge (3)); the same is true w/ high-rent, transportation, and industry.

-Multiple nuclei: (1945; Chauncy Harris & Edward Ullman) claimed the CBD was losing its dominant position as the nucleus of the urban area; separate nuclei become specialized and differentiated, not located in relation to any distance attribute (urban regions have their subsidiary, yet competing, “nuclei”).

-Urban realms: parts of giant conurbations; self-sufficient suburban sectors (focused on their own independent CBD).

Squatter settlement: (shantytown) residential development characterized by extreme poverty; usually exists on land just outside of cities that is neither owned nor rented.
Edge city:
characterized by extensive office and retail space, few residential areas, and modern buildings (built since the 1960s); signifies a newer worldwide trend of the movement of the loci of economic activity to the urban fringe (unlike the loci of activity around the CBD – which had dominated the industrial world).

  - After WWII in the US: 1950s & 60s = suburbanization; 1970s & 80s = "malling" (shopping malls);

  1990s & 2000s = edge cities & "big box" superstores (e.g., Wal-mart, Costco, Super Target,...)

Primate city: a country’s largest city; most expressive of the national culture and usually the capital city as well (e.g., Paris, France; Lagos, Nigeria; Mexico City, Mexico; Dhaka, Bangladesh, Karachi, Pakistan …).
Rank-size rule:
states without a true primate city may follow this rule (many MDCs lack primate cities b/c technology and wealth has diffused throughout their countries); the population of any given city should be inversely proportional to its rank in the urban hierarchy (e.g., if #1 = 12 million, then #2 = 6 million, #3 = 4 million, #4 = 3 million, …).
Basic sector:
activities and services that generate income for a city (e.g., manufacturing, retail, …).

Nonbasic sector: work responsible for the functioning of the city itself (e.g., government, street cleaning, …).

Economic base (basic vs. nonbasic sectors, a.k.a. employment structure) ratio of basic to nonbasic workers (nonbasic is always larger).
Multiplier effect (1:2 (or 1:3) for most large cities)
for every worker in the basic sector, there are typically 2-3 workers in the nonbasic sector for most modern cities.
Functional specialization:
some cities are characterized by one specific activity (e.g., Orlando – tourism, Las Vegas – gambling, …); cities tend to lose their functional specialization as they grow. Typically specialize in management, research and development of a specific industry (motor vehicles in Detroit), or are centers of government and education, notably state capitals that also have a major university (Albany, Lansing, Madison, or Raleigh-Durham).

American city: suburbanization
began largely in the US after WWII (US is the only country in the world in which the majority of the population resides in the suburbs), however, more people have started the process of centralization since the 1990s (moving back into the central cities).

-Revitalization: city planners have redesigned their central cities to make them more amenable to people moving in, especially higher income residents.

-Commercialization: transforming of an area of a city into spaces of consumption - areas attractive to residents and tourists alike in terms of economic activity.

-Gentrification: trend of mid to high-income Americans moving into city centers and rehabilitating much of the architecture, but also replacing low-income population – changing the social character of certain neighborhoods.

Tear-downs: houses that new owners bought with the intention of tearing them down and building a larger home (sometimes called McMansions due to their super size and similar look); like gentrification in the city, it increases housing values and tax revenues, and average income; however, unlike gentrification, the houses are destroyed (not preserved), and this occurs in the wealthy suburbs (like Greenwich Connecticut, or the intercoastal in South Florida) not the central city.

Modern city models (foreign)- most residences tend to decrease in quality and value as the distance from the CBD increases:

-Latin-American: owe much of their structure to colonialism, industrialization, and massive population growth; sector development radiates out from the CBD (which often contain a central plaza), where most industrial and financial activity occurs; also contain barrios (ethnic neighborhoods) which can often be associated with poorer sectors of the city.

-Southeast Asian: consist of sectors and zones radiating from the port zone; influenced by colonialism and are often still focused on exporting goods.

-Sub-Saharan African: consist of sectors and zones, but possess a great deal of centrality around the CBD (may contain multiple CBDs); typically have strong ethnic neighborhoods and squatter settlements on the outskirts.

Canadian city: tend to be more centralized and less suburbanized that US cities; b/c of this their inner cities tends to be much less dilapidated due to fewer wealthy people leaving them.
European city:
older ones were mostly developed during the Medieval period; display less sprawl than US cities, in part since gasoline my cost up to 3-4 times more than in the US; also, some cities have greenbelts (
undeveloped area neighboring an urban area, often protected from development by planning law) which confine urban sprawl.
Eastern European city:
typically less affluent than Western European cities due to the communist urban planning by the USSR during the Cold War; most residential spaces were organized into microdistricts (designed to minimize cost by reducing roads and maximizing living space).

Islamic city: found in the Muslim regions; owe their structure to their religious beliefs; contain mosques, open-air markets, courtyards surrounded by walls, limiting foot traffic in residential neighborhoods.
Sociocultural influences-

-Racial steering: the practice in which real estate brokers guide prospective home buyers towards or away from certain neighborhoods based on their race.

-Redlining: illegal discriminatory practice in the US where minorities are prevented from obtaining loans to buy homes or property in predominantly white or affluent areas.

-Blockbusting: the process of white families selling their homes because of fears that blacks would move in and lower the property value (explains the white flight of the 1950’s from almost every major US city (e.g., Detroit and Cleveland), and the growth of suburbs) 

Zoning laws: legal restrictions on land use; residential, commercial, or industrial.
– the movement of people, capital, services, and govt. into the central city (opposite of suburban sprawl, happened to cities before WWII and is happening now).

Census tract: these are govt. designated areas in cities that each have ~5,000 people, they often times correspond to neighborhoods (data in census tracts is used to analyze urban patterns such as gentrification or white flight)

Concerns of urbanization-

1)    Sprawl – outlying areas more susceptible to landslides, floods, storms, earthquakes, …

2)    Loss of soil – farmland lost (US = 1 million acres/yr.; China = 3x as much)

3)    Land use – natural landscape becomes cultural (pavement, buildings,…); less rainfall, more pollutants

4)    Pollution – growing volumes of contaminants (in air, water, and soil); Mexico City, Delhi, Bangkok are most smog-ridden; riverfront cities create pollution as well

5)    Waste – many lack of sewer facilities (>3 million w/o in Mexico City); burning garbage heaps

6)    Consumption habits – urban dwellers use more energy, change diets (meat), dress, and recreation habits

World city: (global city) centers of economic, culture, and political activity that are strongly interconnected and together control the global systems of finance and commerce (e.g. NYC, London, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Sydney, ...)

Entrepôt: (French for "warehouse") a trading post (e.g., port) where merchandise can be imported and exported without paying import duties, often at a profit (e.g., Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, …).

Gateway city: because of their geographic location, they act as ports of entry and distribution centers for large geographic areas (e.g., NYC, San Francisco, …).