The world’s urban population is expected to increase by 2.5 billion people by 2050. More equitable cities are crucial to climate and development goals, as two-thirds of people will live in cities and vulnerable urban communities will be among the hardest hit by a worsening climate. But achieving more equitable, sustainable cities requires a new vision of how to build and manage urban areas.

Traditional metrics of quality of life based on income are outdated and do not paint a clear picture of city life. Globally, one in three city dwellers — totaling over 1.2 billion people — do not have reliable, safe or affordable access to basic everyday services like running water and sanitation, electricity, decent housing and transport to work and school. The self-provision required to make up for this lack of services is a massive drain on human time, productivity, health and opportunity. And it isn’t just those in poverty: millions of middle-class families suffer from service gaps, leaving them with no choice but expensive, time-consuming and polluting alternatives. This widening gap between the haves and have-nots holds back entire economies.

The World Resources Report: Towards a More Equal City finds that a new approach to cities, centered on providing equitable access to services, would improve billions of lives, generate economic prosperity and create environmental benefits for all. It also offers seven crucial transformations that reimagine urban service provision, include the excluded and create the enabling conditions for lasting change.

Siloed, sector-specific approaches are not enough to help cities. Instead, this research highlights priority actions to bridge the urban services divide across sectors. These actions will create cascading and compounding benefits that will transform cities, providing them with the largest returns on investment, even with limited resources, and avoided economic costs. These actions will also improve the lives of the urban underserved and avoid locking in generations of poverty and poor health.

This report shares over six years of research from more than 160 authors and reviewers. It consists of seven thematic working papers, seven transformational case studies, more than three dozen workshops and a culminating synthesis report.