In this article, You will read Growth and distribution of World Population – for UPSC (Population and Settlement Geography).

Population – A population is defined as a group of individuals of the same group or species living and interbreeding within a given area. Members of a population often rely on the same resources, are subject to similar environmental constraints, and depend on the availability of other members to persist over time.

Population geography – Population geography is a branch of human geography that is focused on the scientific study of people, their spatial distributions, and their density. To study these factors, population geographers examine the increase and decrease in population, peoples’ movements over time, general settlement patterns, and other subjects such as occupation and how people from the geographic character of a place. Population geography is closely related to demography (the study of population statistics and trends).

Population growth – Population growth is loosely defined as the change in the number of individuals in a population in an area over time. To find the growth rate of a population, we take the number of individuals moving into an area and subtract the number of individuals moving out of an area by taking the birth rate, adding the immigration rate, and subtracting the death rate and emigration rate.

  • Growth rate = Birth rate – Death rate + Immigration rate – Emigration rate

Growth and distribution of World Population

  • The beginning of culture is traced back from 10,000 years before the present which represents the time of completion of the evolution of Homo sapiens and the beginning of Palaeolithic culture.
  • It is since 10,000 years by the present that interpretation of human population growth is taken into account.
  • During the last 10,000 years, the growth of the world population accelerated at two distinct times:
    • Agricultural Revolution: About 8000 BC when man started domestication of plants and animals. It assured food supply which meant better nourishment and the human body became more resistance to adverse weather and climate.
    • Industrial Revolution (1779): Man harvested fossil fuels and developed steam engines with the help of machines. With the help of a machine, the man was better able to adapt and started mass production of textiles, food and started traveling around the world.
  • The above revolutions altered the population patterns and demographic attributes of the world as well.
  • Practically for the lengthiest temporal sequence i.e. 10,000 years before the present up to the 1750s, the global population remained at a constant level depicting stage one of the Demographic Revolution.
  • Since the 1750s to 1950s minor increase in a population representing the beginning of the second stage of demographic transition is outlined
  • It is since the 1950s that exponential increase in the global population represents the growth trend to be J-CURVE.
J curve population growth
  • Analysis of population growth combined with growth in technological capacities makes the temporal analysis representing S-Curve.
S curve population growth
  • The S-Curve denotes that every level of exponential population increase is both the cause and effect of technological innovations.
  • This is also recognized as the homeostatic plateau or Neo-Malthusian Approach with at least three well-demarcated ‘S’ curves since the 1950s, representing the Green revolution, Medical revolution, and IT revolution.
S-curve homeostatic plateau or Neo-Malthusian Approach

The analysis of population growth can be classified in the following parts:

  • 10,000 BC till 20th Century
    • On the basis of circumstantial evidence, it can be estimated that the total population in 8000 BC was 5 million people.
    • Men were primarily hunters and women were providing food through plant gatherings.
    • The population density was 4 persons per square km.
    • It was a period of high birth and death rate.
    • It is probable that size deliberately controlled to not exceed the carrying capacity of territory used for hunting and gathering.
  • Agriculture revolution:
    • The development of agriculture around 8000 BC resulted in a decline in the death rate due to increased food supply, better nutrition, increased longevity, etc.
    • Imperatives of child spacing disappeared since mothers in earlier times could carry on one child during movement.
    • Agriculture and high natality go hand in hand, as the perceived economic value of having more children in farming families was that they will be extra helping hand and would take care of older parents in the future.
    • The total population at the time of Christ was around 200 to 300 million and increased to 500 million by 1650 AD.
Population growth - Agriculture revolution
  • Medieval period:
    • During the medieval period there was more emphasis on trade and commerce, which led to the development of cities and towns and an increase in demand of consumer goods.
    • Land owners wished to put more land to agricultural use, hence agriculture started taking shape of big business.
  • Industrial revolution:
    • Industrial revolution led to increasing in population. It led to the systemization of production with help of power-driven machines, leading to high output per capita and there was an accumulation of wealth with the growth of secondary and tertiary activities.
    • Population was tempted to migrate from rural to urban areas and urban population increased rapidly which led to bad living conditions and high death rates in urban areas due to epidemics like cholera.
    • Migration of uneducated peasantry into urban areas led to numerous socioeconomic and cultural problems.
  • Last century: Factors that led to unprecedented growth in the last century are:
    • Due to the development of medical services, the death rate has been controlled and there have been better food for people leading to better health.
      • For example, life expectancy in India in 1901 was 23 years whereas it stood to 65 years in 2001.
    • Due to general technological advancement, there was an increase in the food supply which fulfilled the needs of the population.
      • E.g. Green revolution and Biotechnology.
    • Educational failure to change the social temperament and birth continues to be related to social factors. Although it is a biological phenomenon but is has a bearing of social conditions such as religion, belief, and traditions.
Last century population growth
  • Information and computer technology revolution:
    • The development of ICT has made life much easier and information much accessible, which has also contributed to the controlled increase in the human population in today’s era.

The most significant population increase can be seen in developing countries where 75% of the total population is concentrated. (West Europe faced population explosion in the 1750s, whereas developing countries faced the same in the 1950s.)

population increase in developing countries and developed countries
population in developing countries and developed countries 2100

Present trend of population growth

  • In current scenario the population growth is highly variable. There are many developing countries where population growth rates are in excess of 3 % per annum; most of them are in Africa.
  • On the other hand there are countries which are seeing negative growth rates. E.g. Romania, Russia, Hungary, Latvia, etc.
  • As per UNFPA report the population distribution by continent is as under:
world population by continent upsc
  • Population growth can also be depicted by the time taken to double the population as under:
population double
  • The present trend can be studied under:
    • Regional pattern of population growth in developed countries
    • Regional pattern of population growth in developing countries

Regional pattern of population growth in developed countries

  • General trend of population growth in developed countries
    • Very slow population growth
    • Growth less than 1 %
    • Growth rate sharply declining (for population 1.2 % growth rate needed for replacement)
    • The main factor for population growth is migration
    • The population growth is not producing a young population
    • Clark said “ It is race suicide stage”
  • Specific trends of population growth in developed countries
    • Within developed countries, there are three patterns of growth viz. Positive Growth, Stagnation, and Negative Growth.
Pattern of growth
  • Factors of low population growth in developed countries
    • The primary factor for low population growth in developed countries is the socio-economic transformation of developed countries.
    • More emphasis in developed countries is on career perspective.
    • A hectic and fast life affects the traditional social system.
    • The joint family system collapsed and a complete individualistic social system emerged.
    • Result of the above factors is the frequent break of the marriage system which leads to the collapse of marriage and family institutions. Thus, the average age of marriage increases. E.g. in Switzerland, the average age of marriage is 29 years.
  • These societies are characterized by
    • High level of literacy
    • High level of female literacy.
    • High job opportunities.
    • Scientific approach towards religion
    • Urbanization
    • Industrialization
    • No poverty
  • Problems of low population growth:
    • Demographic problems:
      • Demographic problems have long-term effects. It leads to the inversion of age pyramids.
      • Old age people (>65 years) in developed countries are outnumbering the younger (<25 years) population. E.g. in Japan younger population is 13 % whereas the older population is more than 23 %.
    • Shortage of labour: More jobs are available than manpower.
    • Schools being closed since institutions are becoming uneconomic.
    • Government investment is more on social services.
    • Liberalization of migration laws by many countries.
    • Pluralistic societies are emerging in many countries which are creating their own set of problems.
Population pyramid
  • Steps taken by developed countries to address the problem of low population growth
    • Legal recognition to pre-marriage babies in some countries.
    • Adoption of babies in encouraged. E.g. Thailand is the biggest child market for developed countries. Norway and Sweden adapt maximum babies.
    • Relaxation in marriage age in some countries. E.g. in Scotland, the marriage age system has completely been abolished.
    • Development of baby care centres.
    • Government incentives in form of promotion, increments and housing facilities
    • Limited in-migration, which we call as the second wave of migration. E.g. white Australian policy has been modified to encourage the migration of black and coloured people as well.

Regional pattern of population growth in developing countries

  • Developing countries are characterized by rapid population growth.
  • Within the developing countries, there are four patterns of growth:
    • Explosive Growth (GR> 3%) -> African countries- Nigeria, Uganda
    • Rapid Growth (GR is 2- 3%) -> Pakistan, Maldives, Nepal
    • Moderate Growth (GR is 1-2%) -> India, Egypt
    • Slow Growth (GR is 0-1%) -> Argentina, China
  • Although large-sized countries like India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Brazil have significantly scaled down their growth rate but they have a maximum absolute increase in population.
  • The population pyramid in developing countries are characterized by a Demographic bulge. The bottom and mid-blocks are large.
  • Developing countries are the real cause of the world population explosion. According to Ashok Mitra, “these are the countries whose real problem is increased fertile group of the population”.
population pyramid in developing countries

Factors responsible for present situation of population growth

  • Environmental factors
    • Climate:
      • Equatorial and tropical climates are also called as “land of sickness” as these areas are prone to diseases
      • An area with a monsoon climate is called as ‘land of slackness’ due to the humid climate.
      • Sick and slack societies cannot develop and this causes an in-looking social system.
      • Couples in these areas live together for most of the time.
      • It leads to a subsistence economy and traditional society.
    • Disasters:
      • It brings down development and thus leads to social factors for population growth.
  • Economic factors
    • Developed society has slower population growth. There is an inverse relationship between income and population.
    • Poverty:
      • Poverty is a major factor for population growth. As per Adam Smith, “Poverty creates an ideal atmosphere for high mortality rate for the poor. Kids for them are assets, not a liability”.
      • For over 1 billion people of the world, per day earning is below 1 $, out of this nearly half are in South Asia.
    • Subsistence economy:
      • All developing countries particularly monsoonal countries or paddy cultivating countries have labour intensive subsistence economies.
      • Paddy cultivation and plantation agriculture need more labour. Also, female worker is needed at the time of transplantation. This agriculture economy minimizes living apart of couple thus having more children and more hands for work.
  • Social factors:
    • Religion:
      • Sociologists and anthropologists believe that religion is both promoting as well as the de-motivating factor for population growth.
      • In most developing countries religion is a promoting factor.
      • Clark said “all Islamic countries have very rapid growth and main factor is religion”, on the other hand in Thailand, religion acted as a de-motivating factor. In Thailand, contraceptives were distributed by the hands of monks.
      • In Islamic, Hindu, and Anemist societies, there is a rapid growth of population.
    • Traditional social values:
      • Early marriage and child marriage leads to repeated and unwanted pregnancies.
      • Attraction for the male child
      • Joint family system
      • Illiteracy especially female illiteracy.
      • Lack of job opportunities for females.
  • Demographic factors:
    • High IMR: It is common in African countries where couples are not sure of kids survival, therefore, goes for more child.
    • Large-sized fertile group of population: It can be seen in large-sized countries with large populations like India and China.
  • Politico- administrative factor:
    • Countries having politico-administrative determination have been able to bring down the population e.g. China, Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, and Bangladesh.
    • In Thailand political will could promote religion as a de-motivating factor for population growth.
    • China’s one-child policy is an example of an administrative factor.
    • Partition and post-war outmigration of Jews are examples of a politico-administrative factor of population growth.
    • Lack of health facilities and HIV-related deaths in countries like Botswana affects the population growth of the country.
    • Emigration of people from Spain and Portugal to South America.

Problems of rapid growth of population

  • Proper education, food, housing is a big problem. This may lead to the genetic deterioration of humankind. It leads to a poor and unhealthy society, child trade, and child labour.
  • Increasing the workforce would lead to an increase in the growth of unemployment which will increase poverty, illiteracy and subsistence economy. This further increases social menace, increased crime, increase mental retardation, increased political instability, insurgency.
  • The rise in dependent population is the major problem. Most income is spent on health, housing and education.
  • Food and nutrition problems: World has enough food to support the population for survival but not enough food for healthy survival and therefore the world is facing a hidden hunger problem.
  • Economic backwardness, illiteracy, unemployment.
  • Rapid growth of urbanization and slums
  • Environment degradation and over-exploitation of resources.
  • According to UNFPA, as per current trends, the human population has reached greater than 7 billion marks and still growing at the rate of 26 thousand live births per day.
  • The projected year for global population stability is 2150.
  • By 2020, India is expected to surpass China.
Problems of rapid growth of population
World Population growth
world density of population
population doubling time upsc

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Durga prasad reddy

thank you so much for this wonderful notes . no other coaching institutes have given this kind of comprehensive notes . definitely a game changer

ankit pandey

thanku very much again from bottom of my heart


Very helpful for mains preparation. I’m indebted to you.

Shubham Prakash

Thanks team.