In this article, You will read Population distribution in the world – for UPSC (Population and Settlement Geography).

Population distribution in the world

  • In demographics, the world population is the total number of humans currently living and was estimated to have reached 7,800,000,000 people as of March 2020. It took over 2 million years of human prehistory and history for the world’s population to reach 1 billion, and only 200 years more to reach 7 billion.
  • Six of the Earth’s seven continents are permanently inhabited on a large scale.
  • Asia is the most populous continent, with its 4.64 billion inhabitants accounting for 60% of the world population. The world’s two most populated countries, China and India, together constitute about 36% of the world’s population.
  • Africa is the second most populated continent, with around 1.34 billion people, or 17% of the world’s population.
  • Europe’s 747 million people make up 10% of the world’s population as of 2020, while the Latin American and Caribbean regions are home to around 653 million (8%).
  • North America, primarily consisting of the United States and Canada, has a population of around 368 million (5%), and Oceania, the least populated region, has about 42 million inhabitants (0.5%).
  • Antarctica only has a very small, fluctuating population of about 1200 people based mainly on polar science stations.
  • As per Clark A few regions have human agglomerations while the vast area is the void gone”.
  • Cressey said A few areas have many people and many areas have a few”
  • There is uneven distribution of population and this is related to geographical factors.
  • Clark said “90% of the population of the world living north of the Equator and 10% to the south of Equator.”
  • Population distribution in the world can be studied as under –
Population distribution in the world - UPSC

Latitude wise population distribution

  • About 50% of the population living between 20-40 degrees north.
  • It is the region where we have monsoonal, Mediterranean, East Coast, West Coast climate, and grassland.
  • 30% of the population lives between 40-60 degrees north and to the north of 60 degrees, North lives on 1% of the population.
  • 10% of the population lives in Southern Hemisphere.
population lives in North & Southern Hemisphere

Continent Wise population distribution

Continent Wise population distribution
Continent Wise population distribution in the world
  • Most populated countries of the world (Sources: 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects – UN Population Division)
most populated countries of the world
most populated countries of the world
  • As per geographical features, the population is mainly concentrated in:
    • River valleys
    • Plains
    • Coastal areas
  • As per Vidal de la Blache “Rivers invite population.”
population-density-world 2017

Elaborate analysis of density distribution

  • The habitable world can be dived into Ecumene and Non-Ecumene location.
habitable world can be dived into Ecumene and Non-Ecumene location

Regions of agglomeration/high density

  • In this 7 major regions are included
    • East Asia
    • South Asia
    • Nile Valley
    • West Europe
    • Eastern Littoral Anglo America
    • Metropolitan regions of other parts of the world and few islands
  • East, South East Asia, and South Asia
    • These regions have a monsoonal climate, paddy culture.
    • High fertility of flood plains contributed towards a high concentration of human beings.
    • These regions represent dominant rural agrarian set up including China, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh etc.
  • Nile Valley
    • It is a wheat-growing region having a density of population of more than 500 people per sq km.
    • This region consists of land with fertile black alluvial soil and canal irrigation.
  • West Europe, North European plains, Anglo America (along Great lakes region), Japan
    • This region represents a high level of:
      • Industrialization
      • Urbanization
      • Enough job opportunities
      • Better infrastructure
      • Better health care
      • Better food and nutrition intake
      • In migration in bulk
  • Metropolitan regions of the world with high primacy (Primate City) have been able to bring more concentration of population. E.g.:
    • Mexico City (>20% of the country)
    • Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro region (15% of the population of Brazil)
    • Santiago, Lima
    • Sydney- Melbourne (60% of Australia’s population)
    • Moscow
  • Some Island of huge concentration with favorable geographical conditions and economy includes:
    • Bahrain
    • Mauritius
    • Jamaica
    • Trinidad and Tobago
    • Hawaii group
    • Puerto Rico

Regions with Moderate density

  • Those regions which are neither too favourable nor too unfavourable come under this category. It includes:
    • Savannah lands of Brazil, N. Australia and parts of Africa.
    • Several plateau areas where the tropical climate is favourable
    • Fertile soil regions of sub-humid conditions
    • Attitudinally modified equatorial regions
    • Australia and New Zealand
    • Temperate grasslandsome of them are supposed to have increased population by immigration while other through natural increase.

Non Ecumene (Void, Sporadic)

  • Void zones:
    • These are geographical regions where environmental conditions are highly unfavourable for population concentration like equatorial rainforest, tropical desert, high mountains, tropical deserts, polar region.
    • These areas have sparse population and include:
      • Low latitude regions:
        • These include equatorial regions which is characterized by high temperature, high rainfall, high humidity, dense vegetation, the rapid growth of vegetation (Selvas).
        • All Selvas are sparsely scattered
          • Amazon basin
          • S-W Africa
          • Zaire Basin
          • Borneo Island
        • Selvas zone are impenetrable, two exceptions to these regions are
          • Singapore
          • Java Island
      • High latitude regions (north of 60 degrees North)
        • These are the areas of subpolar and polar characteristics having very cold conditions.
        • The average temperature is below the freezing point for over 9 months.
        • There are cold waves, blizzards, purge (Siberia) which leads to low or no bacterial activity.
        • There is no vegetation with no proper soil formation
        • The above conditions make human survival difficult in these regions.
        • There are few exceptions to the above:
          • Iron ore mines region of Sweden
          • Gold in Yukon valley of Canada, Fairbanks and fort Yukon of Alaska.
          • Coal, oil and salt areas of Siberia and Asiatic tundra.
      • High-temperature region
        • These are both temperate and tropical regions.
        • They are characterised by torrential rain, scanty vegetation, sandy surface, etc.
        • Soil layer is dominated by salt and sand, the groundwater table is very deep.
        • There is lack of surface water with a suffusion of desert environment.
        • Main area of the Sahara desert is 29 lakh square km, but it has a total of about 30 lakh persons.
        • There is hardly any permanent settlement.
        • Exceptions:
          • Gold mines in Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie in Australia
          • Cripple Creek in the USA
          • Oil regions of Libya and Arabia (petro economy)
        • Central Asia has low density due to climatic continentality
      • Dense forests region: the areas consists of
        • Taiga forest areas (55 degree to 66 degrees North)
        • Very dense forests in northern Canada and Siberia. These are known as the land of mosquitoes. Here the surface is moist throughout the year.
        • These regions have podzol soil where acidity is high. More acidity leads to more angular grain thus making agriculture difficult of impossible.
        • Winter is very harsh and summer is of very short duration.
        • The above factors lead to very less population density in northern Canada and Siberia.
      • High altitude region
        • All-mountain regions with an altitude greater than 4000m where there is no human activity comes under this category.
        • There are very cold conditions, steep slopes, lack of soil layer, lack of vegetation, etc. which discourages human settlement.
        • Examples: Tibetan Plateau, high mountain regions which have an average of 3 to 5 persons/ square km.
  • Sporadic Ecumene:
    • These are sparsely populated areas having irregular and sporadic type of settlement.
    • These areas have large areas which remain inhabitable while relatively small points swarm with people.
    • The best example includes:
      • Larger oases of Africa and West Asia.
      • Islands of Java and Philippines
      • Isolated towns of Congo and Amazon basin
      • Mekong delta
      • Mesopotamia
      • Turanian plains
    • The major sporadic ecumene regions have:
      • Minerals– Prominent example includes:
        • Kiruna (Iron ore- Sweden)
        • Magadan (Coal- Siberia)
        • Manaus (Gold-Brazil)
        • Namib desert (Uranium- Namibia)
      • Energy resource
        • Persian Gulf shoreline (crude oil)
        • Sakhalin (crude oil, natural gas- Russia)
      • Marine links
        • Honolulu
        • Hawaii islands
        • Singapore representing port of call along with Port Said, Port Suez, Panama city, Colon
    • The development of sporadic ecumene is also correlated to the favourable habitat with almost all megacities of African Savannah. E.g. Addis Ababa, Kampala, Nairobi which are located at the elevation of > 3000m
    • The administrative capital of Yemen (Sana) and Bolivia (Lapaz) have similar conditions. Lake Titicaca in Bolivia has the highest navigable lake in the world.
    • It is estimated that the population in sparsely populated areas will increase at a faster pace, which may create ecological and demographic problems.
Regional pattern of density of population in world
Regional pattern of density of population in world

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Shubham Prakash

Thank u for sharing this !!