Population density

Population density (people per km2) by country, 2015
Population density (people per km2) by country, 2006
Population density (people per km2) map of the world in 1994. In relation to the equator it is seen that the vast majority of the human population lives in the Northern Hemisphere.
Population density (people per km2) map of the world in 1994
Deserts around the world. Compare with maps above. See also this image for location of densely populated areas (cities) in various vegetation zones.

Population density (in agriculture: standing stock and standing crop) is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume; it is a quantity of type number density. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and most of the time to humans. It is a key geographical term.[1]

Biological population densities

Population density is population divided by total land area or water volume, as appropriate.[1]

Low densities may cause an extinction vortex and lead to further reduced fertility. This is called the Allee effect after the scientist who identified it. Examples of the causes in low population densities include:[2]

Human population density

Monaco in Southern Europe, currently holds the record for being the most densely populated nation in the world.
Mongolia is the least densely populated country in the world.
This population cartogram of the European Union uses areas and colors to represent population.

For humans, population density is the number of people per unit of area, usually quoted per square kilometer or square mile (which may include or exclude, for example, areas of water or glaciers). Commonly this may be calculated for a county, city, country, another territory, or the entire world.

The world's population is around 7,000,000,000[3] and Earth's total area (including land and water) is 510,000,000 square kilometers (197,000,000 sq. mi.).[4] Therefore, the worldwide human population density is around 7,000,000,000 ÷ 510,000,000 = 13.7 per km2 (35 per sq. mi). If only the Earth's land area of 150,000,000 km2 (58,000,000 sq. mi.) is taken into account, then human population density increases to 47 per km2 (120 per sq. mile). This includes all continental and island land area, including Antarctica. If Antarctica is also excluded, then population density rises to over 50 people per km2 (over 130 per sq. mile).[1] However, over half of the Earth's land mass consists of areas inhospitable to human habitation, such as deserts and high mountains, and population tends to cluster around seaports and fresh-water sources. Thus, this number by itself does not give any helpful measurement of human population density.

Several of the most densely populated territories in the world are city-states, microstates, and dependencies.[5][6] These territories have a relatively small area and a high urbanization level, with an economically specialized city population drawing also on rural resources outside the area, illustrating the difference between high population density and overpopulation.

Cities with high population densities are, by some, considered to be overpopulated, though this will depend on factors like quality of housing and infrastructure and access to resources.[7] Most of the most densely populated cities are in Southeast Asia, though Cairo and Lagos in Africa also fall into this category.[8]

City population and especially area are, however, heavily dependent on the definition of "urban area" used: densities are almost invariably higher for the central city area than when suburban settlements and the intervening rural areas are included, as in the areas of agglomeration or metropolitan area, the latter sometimes including neighboring cities. For instance, Milwaukee has a greater population density when just the inner city is measured, and the surrounding suburbs excluded.[9]

In comparison, based on a world population of seven billion, the world's inhabitants, as a loose crowd taking up ten square feet (one square metre) per person (Jacobs Method), would occupy a space a little larger than Delaware's land area.

Most densely populated countries/regions

  1. India
  2. China
By inhabited region
Region Population Area (km2) Density
(Pop. per km2)
Indo-Gangetic Plain (Punjab to Bangladesh and Assam) 1,000,000,000 1,000,000 1000
Greater North China Plain 600,000,000 700,000 857
Sichuan Basin 110,000,000 250,000 440
Java Island 145,000,000 130,000 1115
Taiheiyo Belt (Japan) 85,000,000 60,000 1417
SE China coast (Guangdong, Hong Kong, Fujian) 140,000,000 100,000 1400
Nile Delta 50,000,000 50,000 1000
Southern India (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Pondicherry, and Andhra Pradesh) 270,000,000 635,780 425
Central India (Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh) 106,500,000 443,440 240
West Indian Coast (Maharashtra and Gujarat Coast) 70,000,000 100,000 700
Colombian Andes (Colombia) 40,000,000 170,000 235
Northern Europe (Benelux, North Rhine-Westphalia) 44,000,000 110,000 400
NE US Coast 45,000,000 100,000 450
S Central England 40,000,000 60,000 667
Central Mexico 40,000,000 100,000 400
Luzon Island 50,000,000 105,000 476
South Korea 50,000,000 100,000 500
Southeastern Brazil Coast 50,000,000 100,000 500
By political boundaries
With population above 1,000,000
Rank Country/Region Population Area (km2) Density
(Pop. per km2)
1  Singapore 5,535,000 719 7698
2  Hong Kong 7,234,800 1,104 6553
3  Gaza Strip 1,816,379 360 5045
4  Bahrain 1,234,567 750 1646
5  Bangladesh 157,457,000 147,570 1067
6  Taiwan 23,361,147 36,190 646
7  Mauritius 1,288,000 2,040 631
8  Lebanon 5,851,000 10,452 560
9  South Korea 51,529,338 99,720 517
10  Rwanda 11,262,564 26,338 428
With population above 10,000,000
Rank Country/Region Population Area (km2) Density
(Pop. per km2)
1  Bangladesh 157,457,000 147,570 1067
2  Taiwan (R.O.C) 23,361,147 36,190 646
3  South Korea 51,529,338 99,720 517
4  Rwanda 11,262,564 26,338 428
5  India 1,326,801,576 3,287,263 417
6  Netherlands 16,919,139 41,526 407
7  Haiti 10,413,211 27,750 375
8  Belgium 11,239,755 30,528 368
9  Philippines 102,078,300 300,076 340
10  Japan 127,290,000 377,944 337

Other methods of measurement

Although arithmetic density is the most common way of measuring population density, several other methods have been developed to provide a more accurate measure of population density over a specific area.

See also

Lists of entities by population density


  1. 1 2 3 Matt Rosenberg Population Density. Geography.about.com. March 2, 2011. Retrieved on December 10, 2011.
  2. Minimum viable population size. Eoearth.org (March 6, 2010). Retrieved on December 10, 2011.
  3. U.S. & World Population Clocks. Census.gov. Retrieved on December 10, 2011.
  4. World. CIA World Handbook
  5. Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009). "World Population Prospects, Table A.1" (PDF). 2008 revision. United Nations. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  6. The Monaco government uses a smaller surface area figure resulting in a population density of 18,078 per km2
  7. Human Population. Global Issues. Retrieved on December 10, 2011.
  8. The largest cities in the world by land area, population and density. Citymayors.com. Retrieved on December 10, 2011.
  9. The Population of Milwaukee County. Wisconline.com. Retrieved on December 10, 2011.
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