Cities are constantly evolving, and urban populations respond to a number of push–pull factors, including economic opportunity, lifestyle trends, land values, and natural disasters.
Beyond the headlines and raw census numbers, it can be difficult to take population patterns into perspective. The talented team over at The Pudding has created an amazing, granular map that shows these patterns as 3D stacks.
Our focus today will be on growth between 1990 and 2015, as urban settlement patterns across Canada and the U.S. shifted dramatically over this relatively short timeframe. Let’s take a look.
One of the most dramatic examples of robust growth is Toronto.
Canada’s largest city nearly doubled its population since 1990, and growth was distributed throughout the region. This city is a rare example of both extra-urban and downtown residential growth.
Vancouver is another Canadian city with a swelling urban population base. The city’s recent population growth has been heavily concentrated along transit lines and the downtown core, resulting in a “spiky” visualization which resembles the condo towers now dotting the city’s skyline.
Nearby, Seattle has added over a million people to its population since 1990. With one of the strongest economies in the country, it’s unlikely that momentum will slow any time soon.
Only recently have some cities begun to see urban residential construction. For much of the ’90s and ’00s, America’s growth was in peripheral suburbs, where land was plentiful and cheap.
This sprawl effect is particularly easy to spot in the Texas Triangle – which encompasses the cities of San Antonio, Austin, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Houston – and Atlanta.
While Los Angeles did see a modest amount of growth over the past 25 years, it was the Inland Empire – anchored by San Bernardino and Riverside – that saw the most dramatic population growth in the region. The construction boom is only intensifying. The region added 50,000 new residents between 2016 and 2017.
In general, smaller towns either lost population or remained relatively static. The exception is in places where resource extraction caused a growth spurt. Two prime examples are in Gillette, Wyoming, and Fort McMurray, Alberta. In the latter town, oil sands extraction added tens of thousands of new residents in a short amount of time.
Mixed growth and Static Cities
Chicago experienced one of the most striking growth patterns over the past 25 years. The contrast between urban decline and growth in the exurbs is clearly revealed in this visualization.
Contrast is also clear when looking at divergent patterns of Washington D.C. and Baltimore. The nation’s capital and surrounding areas have been growing steadily in recent years, whereas the neighboring city’s population is declining towards a 100-year low.
While a number of urban areas experienced dramatic shifts in the last couple of decades, some cities sidestepped wild population swings. For example, much of Philadelphia’s population pattern remains similar to what it was in 1990.
Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Springfield, Massachusetts, are examples of smaller cities that remained in stasis.
Decline and Disaster
A number of cities in America’s “Rust Belt” experienced declining populations. The visualizations of cities like Cleveland and Detroit show just how pronounced the exodus was.
The shrinking tax base and glut of vacant homes is causing a number of problems in the two cities, and with mixed economic prospects, it’s unclear what the next 25 years will bring in terms of population changes.
Often, population declines are the result of economic reasons such as a decline in manufacturing or general stagnation. On occasion though, the raw power of nature changes the course of a city’s history. This is the case in New Orleans, were Hurricane Katrina’s legacy is clearly seen in this visualization.
New Orleans did recover in the years after the hurricane. However, as of 2015, the city was still far below its pre-Katrina population. Resettlement has been patchy as well, which is reflected in the towering red peaks of the population map.
To explore your city or other parts of the world, visit The Pudding’s interactive map.
The Population of China in Perspective
China is the world’s most populous country. But how does the population of China compare to the rest of the world?
The Population of China in Perspective
China is the world’s most populous country with an astounding 1.44 billion citizens. Altogether, the size of the population of China is larger than nearly four regions combined: South America, Europe (excluding Russia), the U.S. & Canada, and Australia & New Zealand.
Using data from the United Nations, this unconventional map reveals the comparative size of China’s population next to a multitude of other countries.
Note: To keep the visualization easy to read, we’ve simplified the shapes representing countries. For example, although we’ve included Alaska and Hawaii in U.S. population totals, the U.S. is represented by the contiguous states map only.
A Historical Perspective
Looking at history, the population of China has more than doubled since the 1950s. The country was the first in the world to hit one billion people in 1980.
However, in 1979, in an attempt to control the burgeoning population, the infamous one-child policy was introduced, putting controls on how many children Chinese citizens could have.
While the government eventually recognized the negative implications of this policy, it appeared to be too little, too late. The two-child policy was introduced in 2016, but it has not yet reversed the current slowdown in population growth.
|Year||China's Population (Millions)||Annual Rate of Growth (%)||Median Age||Fertility Rate|
The fertility rate has been consistently falling from over 6 births per woman in 1955 to 1.69 in 2020. Today, the median age in China is 38 years old, rising from 22 in 1955. Longer life spans and fewer births form a demographic trend that has many social and economic implications.
Overall, China’s young population is becoming scarcer, meaning that the domestic labor market will eventually begin shrinking. Additionally, the larger share of elderly citizens will require publicly-funded resources, resulting in a heavier societal and financial burden.
Strength in Numbers
Despite these trends, however, China’s current population remains massive, constituting almost 20% of the world’s total population. Right now 71% of the Chinese population is between the ages of 15 and 65 years old, meaning that the labor supply is still immense.
Here are the populations of 65 countries from various regions of the world—and added together, you’ll see they still fall short of the population of China:
|🇺🇸 U.S.||331,002,651||North America|
|🇨🇦 Canada||37,742,154||North America|
|🇧🇷 Brazil||212,559,417||South America|
|🇨🇴 Colombia||50,882,891||South America|
|🇦🇷 Argentina||45,195,774||South America|
|🇵🇪 Peru||32,971,854||South America|
|🇻🇪 Venezuela||28,435,940||South America|
|🇨🇱 Chile||19,116,201||South America|
|🇪🇨 Ecuador||17,643,054||South America|
|🇧🇴 Bolivia||11,673,021||South America|
|🇵🇾 Paraguay||7,132,538||South America|
|🇺🇾 Uruguay||3,473,730||South America|
|🇬🇾 Guyana||786,552||South America|
|🇸🇷 Suriname||586,632||South America|
|🇬🇫 French Guyana||298,682||South America|
|🇫🇰 Falkland Islands||3,480||South America|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||4,822,233||Oceania|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||3,280,819||Europe|
|🇲🇰 North Macedonia||2,083,374||Europe|
|🇸🇲 San Marino||33,931||Europe|
|🇻🇦 Vatican City||801||Europe|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||67,886,011||Europe|
|🇮🇲 Isle of Man||85,033||Europe|
|🇫🇴 Faroe Islands||48,863||Europe|
To break it down even further, here’s a look at the population of each of the regions listed above:
- Australia and New Zealand: 30.3 million
- Europe (excluding Russia): 601.7 million
- South America: 430.8 million
- The U.S. and Canada: 368.7 million
Combined their population is 1.432 billion compared to China’s 1.439 billion.
Overall, the population of China has few comparables. India is one exception, with a population of 1.38 billion. As a continent, Africa comes in close as well at 1.34 billion people. Here’s a breakdown of Africa’s population for further comparison.
|🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire||26,378,274||Africa|
|🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||20,903,273||Africa|
|🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||7,976,983||Africa|
|🇨🇻 Cabo Verde||555,987||Africa|
|🇸🇭 Saint Helena||6,077||Africa|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||59,308,690||Africa|
|🇪🇭 Western Sahara||597,339||Africa|
|🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo||89,561,403||Africa|
|🇨🇫 Central African Republic||4,829,767||Africa|
|🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea||1,402,985||Africa|
|🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe||219,159||Africa|
|🇸🇸 South Sudan||11,193,725||Africa|
Future Outlook on the Population of China
Whether or not China’s population growth is slowing appears to be less relevant when looking at its sheer size. While India is expected to match the country’s population by 2026, China will remain one of the world’s largest economic powerhouses regardless.
It is estimated, however, that the population of China will drop below one billion people by the year 2100—bumping the nation to third place in the ranking of the world’s most populous countries. At the same time, it’s possible that China’s economic dominance may be challenged by these same demographic tailwinds as time moves forward.
Mapping the World’s Youngest and Oldest Countries
Higher life expectancies and lower fertility rates are reshaping global demographics, but vast regional differences remain. Where are the youngest and oldest countries in the world?
Mapping the World’s Youngest and Oldest Countries
Country age demographics are determined by two key factors: fertility and mortality.
Throughout history, it was typical to see both birth and death rates at higher levels. But today, in most parts of the world, women are having fewer children, and innovations in healthcare and technology mean we are all living longer. The average person today lives to 72.6 years old, while the rate of births per woman has fallen to 2.5.
These trends have drastically altered the demographics of mature economies, resulting in a much older population. In many developing countries, however, births still outweigh deaths, resulting in populations that skew younger.
This visualization uses data from the World Bank to examine the countries with the highest shares of old and young people.
The Fountain of Youth
By 2030, the United Nations estimates there will be 1.3 billion people on the planet between the ages of 15-24. Proving to be a fountain of youth globally, the continent of Africa boasts the top 10 countries with the largest shares of young people in the world.
Somalia, Zambia, and the DRC are just a few to crack the top 10 list. The youngest country in the world is Niger, where almost 50% of the population is below the age of 15.
Here’s a full list of global countries, sorted by percentage of population under 15 years old:
|Country||Share of Population Younger Than 15 (% of total, 2019)|
|🇨🇩 Congo, Dem. Rep.||46.0%|
|🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||44.7%|
|🇬🇲 The Gambia||44.1%|
|🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe||42.1%|
|🇨🇮 Cote d'Ivoire||41.7%|
|🇸🇸 South Sudan||41.6%|
|🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||40.7%|
|🇸🇧 Solomon Islands||40.1%|
|🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea||37.0%|
|🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||35.5%|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||29.0%|
|🇨🇻 Cape Verde||28.4%|
|🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||27.7%|
|🇸🇻 El Salvador||26.9%|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||24.9%|
|🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||24.0%|
|🇵🇫 French Polynesia||22.6%|
|🇳🇨 New Caledonia||22.4%|
|🇻🇨 St. Vincent and the Grenadines||22.2%|
|🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda||22.0%|
|🇨🇷 Costa Rica||21.1%|
|🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago||20.3%|
|🇰🇵 North Korea||20.0%|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||19.6%|
|🇻🇮 U.S. Virgin Islands||19.5%|
|🇺🇸 United States||18.5%|
|🇱🇨 St. Lucia||18.2%|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||17.7%|
|🇲🇰 North Macedonia||16.4%|
|🇵🇷 Puerto Rico||16.3%|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||15.7%|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||14.7%|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||14.7%|
|🇲🇴 Macao SAR, China||14.0%|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||12.7%|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR, China||12.3%|
Young countries have significant opportunities ahead of them. A younger population means a larger upcoming workforce and more opportunities for innovation and economic growth.
While domestic markets in Africa grow in terms of labor supply, innovation, and potential consumers, there are also challenges that arise in these countries. Corruption, political instability and unemployment, particularly in Africa, are all potential barriers to prosperity for the continent’s Gen Z population.
Populations Skewing Older
The world’s oldest country is Japan, where 28% of the population is older than 65. However, it’s an anomaly—the rest of the oldest countries in the top 10 are all in Europe.
Globally, it’s the 65+ age group that is growing the fastest. According to the same UN estimates, it is predicted that by 2050 that one in six people will be over 65 years old.
Here’s a full list of global countries, sorted by percentage of population over 65 years old:
|Country||Share of Population Older Than 65 (% of total, 2019)|
|🇻🇮 U.S. Virgin Islands||19.8%|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||19.8%|
|🇵🇷 Puerto Rico||19.6%|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||18.5%|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR, China||17.4%|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||17.2%|
|🇺🇸 United States||16.2%|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||15.9%|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||15.0%|
|🇲🇰 North Macedonia||14.0%|
|🇲🇴 Macao SAR, China||11.2%|
|🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago||11.1%|
|🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||10.8%|
|🇱🇨 St. Lucia||10.0%|
|🇨🇷 Costa Rica||9.8%|
|🇻🇨 St. Vincent and the Grenadines||9.7%|
|🇳🇨 New Caledonia||9.4%|
|🇰🇵 North Korea||9.2%|
|🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda||9.0%|
|🇵🇫 French Polynesia||8.6%|
|🇸🇻 El Salvador||8.4%|
|🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||7.2%|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||5.4%|
|🇨🇻 Cape Verde||4.6%|
|🇸🇧 Solomon Islands||3.6%|
|🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||3.5%|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||3.4%|
|🇸🇸 South Sudan||3.3%|
|🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo||3.0%|
|🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe||2.9%|
|🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||2.9%|
|🇨🇮 Cote d'Ivoire||2.8%|
|🇨🇫 Central African Republic||2.8%|
|🇬🇲 The Gambia||2.5%|
|🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea||2.4%|
|🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||2.4%|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||1.1%|
Fewer births, and a resulting older population, is a trend attributed to the changing lifestyles of women. For example, Japan’s fertility rate has fallen to less than 1.5 children per woman due to modern access to contraceptives and the prioritization of work over marriage and family life.
However, fewer young people also means a smaller workforce on the horizon and a shrinking domestic market. There is also a rising social cost of caring for the elderly, as longer lifespans have resulted in a higher prevalence of chronic diseases and an increasing inability to care for oneself. This can result in an increased tax burden on the diminishing younger, working population.
Another Perspective on the Data
Looking at the data from the opposite angle also reveals information about our world. Here’s a look at the countries with the lowest proportions of younger or older people.
Hong Kong and Singapore have some of the lowest fertility rates in the world (1.1), so it’s no surprise to see low numbers of children in their demographic data.
In a country like the United Arab Emirates, the majority of the population is made up of foreign workers, so the number of people in the 65+ age group is extremely low. In the coming decades though, the situation is expected to shift dramatically with one in every five Emiratis residing that age group by 2050.
The Big Picture
While each country has its own unique demographic make up, one thing is clear. As education and wealth levels rise around the world, fertility rates are dropping almost everywhere.
The trend of long life expectancies and fewer births is likely to continue, but young outliers will remain and they present immense economic potential.
Markets2 months ago
Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2021
Green3 days ago
Mapped: The Greenest Countries in the World
Green1 month ago
Visualizing Countries by Share of Earth’s Surface
Technology1 month ago
The 50 Most Visited Websites in the World
Money4 weeks ago
Mapped: The Wealthiest Billionaire in Each U.S. State in 2021
Technology1 month ago
Global Stars: The Most Innovative Countries, Ranked by Income Group
Sponsored6 days ago
The Carbon Footprint of Trucking: Driving Toward A Cleaner Future
Precious Metals2 months ago
How Every Asset Class, Currency, and S&P 500 Sector Performed in 2020