In 1945 only 35 percent of the population lived in urban areas. After 1945 much of the population moved from the country's less developed counties to Budapest and later to its suburbs and to the industrial counties of Hajdú-Bihar and Borsod-Abaúj- Zemplen. The number of urban dwellers grew by more than 50 percent from 1949 to 1984. In 1978, for the first time in the country's history, more people lived in urban centers than in rural areas. In 1949 the population density was about 100 persons per square kilometer. By the 1980s, that figure had climbed to about 117 persons per square kilometer.
In the late 1980s, nine cities had populations greater than 100,000. Budapest, the country's focal point for government, culture, industry, trade, and transport, was by far the largest city, with 2.1 million inhabitants, or 19.2 percent of the country's population. Other major population centers were Debrecen, with 217,000 inhabitants; Miskolc, with 210,000; Szeged, with 188,000; Pecs, with 182,000; Györ, with 131,000; Nyiregyhaza, with 119,000; Szekesfehervar, with 113,000; and Kecskemet, with 105,000. In 1988 the country had a total of 143 urban centers with more than 10,000 inhabitants, where about 62 percent of the population lived.
As of 1988, the country had 2,915 settlements with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, where 38 percent of the people made their homes. Beginning in the 1950s, the smallest villages, or those with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, tended to lose their residents. However, the number of people leaving the villages decreased every year after 1960. Whereas in 1960 about 259,000 people left the villages permanently, that number declined to about 129,000 in 1986. The number of people leaving the villages exceeded the number coming to the countryside by approximately 52,000 people in 1960. That number had declined to 37,769 in 1980 and 20,814 in 1986.
In the 1980s, a substantial number of persons of Hungarian origin lived outside the country. Many of these lived in neighboring countries. Others had moved even farther from their homeland. In the three decades before World War I, some 3 million ethnic Hungarian peasants had fled to the United States to escape rural poverty. During and after the Revolution of 1956, about 250,000 people left the country, traveling first to Austria and Yugoslavia and eventually emigrating to Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Switzerland, the United States, and West Germany. In the late 1980s, about 40 percent of all persons of Hungarian origin were living outside Hungary.
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