Mapped: The World's Population Density by Latitude
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Mapped: The World’s Population Density by Latitude

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A map of the world population by latitude.

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Mapped: The World’s Population Density by Latitude

When you think about areas with high population densities, certain regions spring to mind. This could be a populous part of Asia or a cluster of cities in North America or Europe.

Usually density comparisons are made using cities or countries, but this map from Alasdair Rae provides another perspective. This world map depicts population density by latitude, going from the densest populated coordinates in deep red to the sparsest in light blue.

Why Certain Latitudes (and Regions) Are More Densely Populated

Numerous factors affect an area’s population density. These can range from topography, or the physical terrain characteristics of the place, to more direct factors like an area’s climate, which can impact both the survivability and agricultural potential.

Political, economic, and social factors are also at play⁠—for example, there is a natural lack of livelihood opportunities in sparse areas such as the Amazon rainforest or the Himalayas.

Breaking down the population by latitude, we see the population becomes more concentrated near the equator. In particular, the 25th and 26th parallel north are the most densely populated latitude circles. Around 279 million people reside in these latitude lines, which run through large countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, the United States, Mexico, and others.

Despite their large landmasses, many of these countries do not themselves have very high population densities. Since density measures the ratio of people to physical space, countries with vast but sparse regions like China and India are less dense than imagined.

Out of the top 10 most densely populated countries in the world, only a couple can be found on the 25th and 26th parallel north⁠—Bangladesh and Bahrain. For a size comparison, Bangladesh is 1.55% the size of China, and Bahrain is only 0.01%.

The Future of Population Density Near the Equator

Looking ahead to 2100, the UN projects that the global population will rise to almost 11 billion. This would increase global population density from 59.11 people per square kilometer in 2022 to 80.82 per square kilometer in 2100.

However, the projections show that Asia will not be the biggest contributor to this growth. Instead, the most considerable jump in population is predicted for Africa, set to grow by almost 200% from almost 1.5 billion people today to 4.3 billion in 2100.

The equator runs right through the middle of Africa and crisscrosses countries like the Congo (both the Republic and DRC), Kenya, Gabon, Uganda, and Somalia.

As Africa’s population expands, this means that at latitudes near the equator, there could be even higher population densities coming. Or course, this largely depends on how the world’s fastest growing cities⁠—most of which are in Africa⁠—shape up over the coming decades.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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War

Map Explainer: Key Facts About Ukraine

Ukraine has made the headlines due to the ongoing tensions with Russia. In this map infographic, we examine Ukraine from a structural point of view.

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ukraine map explainer

Map Explainer: Key Facts About Ukraine

The modern state of Ukraine was formed nearly 30 years ago after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, the country has often made headlines due to political instability and the looming threat of a Russian invasion.

In the map graphic above, we examine Ukraine from a structural point of view. What’s the country’s population composition? What drives the country’s economy? And most importantly, why is the country important within a global context?

Where Do People Live in Ukraine?

With a population of nearly 44 million people, Ukraine is the eighth-most populous country in Europe. For perspective, that is slightly smaller than Spain, and four times larger than Greece.

As the cartogram below demonstrates, a large portion of the country’s population is located in and around the capital Kyiv, along with the Donetsk region—which is front and center in the current conflict with Russia.

Ukraine population cartogram

Not surprisingly, many of the country’s Russian speaking citizens live on the eastern side of the country, near the Russian border.

Key Facts About Ukraine’s Demographics

Ukrainians make up almost 78% of the total population, while Russians represent around 17% of the population, making it the single-largest Russian diaspora in the world.

Other minorities include:

  • Belarusians: 0.6%
  • Bulgarians: 0.4%
  • Hungarians: 0.3%
  • Crimean Tatars: 0.5%
  • Romanians: 0.3%
  • Poles: 0.3%
  • Jews: 0.2%

The country’s population has been declining since the 1990s because of a high emigration rate, and high death rates coupled with a low birth rate.

The majority of the population is Christian (80%), with 60% declaring adherence to one or another strand of the Orthodox Church.

Ukraine’s Economy: An Overview

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine turned over thousands of atomic weapons in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, the United States, and other countries. However, the defense industry continues to be a strategically important sector and a large employer in Ukraine. The country exports weapons to countries like India, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

Furthermore, Ukraine is rich in natural resources, particularly in mineral deposits. It possesses the world’s largest reserves of commercial-grade iron ore—30 billion tonnes of ore or around one-fifth of the global total. It’s also worth noting that Ukraine ranks second in terms of known natural gas reserves in Europe, which today remain largely untapped.

Ukraine’s mostly flat geography and high-quality soil composition make the country a big regional agricultural player. The country is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of wheat and the world’s largest exporter of seed oils like sunflower and rapeseed.

Coal mining, chemicals, mechanical products (aircraft, turbines, locomotives and tractors) and shipbuilding are also important sectors of the Ukrainian economy.

The Bear in the Room

Given the country’s location and history, it’s nearly impossible to talk about Ukraine without mentioning nearby Russia.

The country shares borders with Russia both to the east and northeast. For context, a car trip from Moscow to one of the Ukrainian border cities, Shostka, takes around 8 hours. To the Northwest, Ukraine also shares borders with Belarus—a country that is closely aligned with the Kremlin.

To the southeast is Crimea, a peninsula entirely surrounded by both the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov. In 2014, Russia annexed the peninsula and established two federal subjects, the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol. The annexation was widely condemned around the world, and the territories are recognized by most of the international community as being part of Ukraine.

The region was of particular interest to Russia since Moscow depends on the Black Sea for access to the Mediterranean. The Port of Sevastopol, on the southwest edge of Crimea, is one of the few ice-free deepwater ports available to Russia in the region.

Due to ongoing tensions between the two countries, Ukraine has been seeking to reduce Russia’s leverage over its economy. As a result, China and Poland have surpassed Russia as Ukraine’s largest country trading partners in recent years.

However, Ukraine still remains an important route for Russian gas that heats millions of homes, generates electricity, and powers factories in Europe. The continent gets nearly 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia.

Furthermore, Ukraine is connected to the same power grid as Russia, so it remains dependent on Moscow in the event of a shortfall. Even as conflict heats up, the two countries still share economic links, which will influence how the situation unfolds.

Conflict in the Donbas Region

Ukraine stands at the center of a geopolitical rivalry between western powers and Russia, and that rivalry is flaring up once again.

Two regions along the Russian border—Donetsk and Luhansk—have been a conflict zone since 2014, when pro-Russian separatists began clashing with government forces. The map below shows the relative contact zone between the two opposing forces.

donbas region conflict zone

ZomBear, Marktaff, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Currently Russia has troops and military equipment amassed at various points along the border between the two countries, as well as in neighboring Belarus.

In recent days, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, recognizing them as independent states. This recognition serves as a definitive end point to the seven-year peace deal known as the Minsk agreement.

As this conflict heats up, it remains to be seen what will happen to the roughly 5 million people who live in the Donbas region.

Note: As of February 23rd, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale military operation into Ukraine. The situation is still evolving rapidly.

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Misc

Mapped: The World’s Major Religions

Today, 84% of the world’s population identifies with a religious group. Here we visualize the distribution of the major religions worldwide.

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Religious Composition of Countries

The world has become increasingly more secular in the last few decades. However, religion remains an integral part of many people’s lives, and 84% of the world’s population identifies with a religious group.

The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths.

With the help of data from Pew Research Center, we break down the religious composition of the major religions in countries worldwide.

Religious Makeup of the World by Major Religions

Determining the exact number of religions across the world is a daunting task. Many religions can be difficult to categorize or to tell apart for those not intimately familiar with their doctrine.

Pew Research Center organizes the world’s religions into seven major categories, which includes five major religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism), one category that broadly includes all Folk/Traditional religions, and an unaffiliated category.

Globally, Christianity has the largest following of these categories. Around 31% of the world’s population are Christians, closely followed by Muslims at 25%. Jews have the smallest population of major religions, with only 0.2% of the world identifying as Jewish.

Let’s take a look at the religious composition of the world when accounting for regions:

RegionChristiansMuslimsUnaffiliatedHindusJewsBuddhistsFolk
North America74.6%1.3%19.2%0.8%1.6%1.2%0.4%
Latin America-Caribbean89.7%0.1%8.0%0.1%0.1%0.1%1.8%
Europe72.2%6.8%20.0%0.2%0.2%0.2%0.1%
Middle East-North Africa3.6%93.1%0.6%0.6%1.6%0.2%0.3%
Sub-Saharan Africa62.0%31.4%3.0%0.2%0.1%0.1%3.2%
Asia-Pacific7.2%25.7%20.0%26.0%0.1%11.3%8.6%
World31.0%25.0%15.6%15.2%0.2%6.6%5.6%

From Islam being the dominant religion in the Middle East to over 95% of Cambodians and Thais following Buddhism, here’s how prevalent every major religion in the world is.

Christianity

The world’s largest religion, Christianity, is practiced by about 2.4 billion people.

The country with the highest number of practicing Christians is the United States, with a Christian population of 253 million. Brazil and Mexico follow closely with 185 million and 118 million Christians, respectively.

Map of the composition of Christianity around the world

Christianity has historically spread around the globe and today it remains a geographically widespread religion. Over the past century, it has become less concentrated in Europe while becoming more evenly distributed throughout the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region.

Islam

Even though it’s the predominant religion of countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa, by sheer number, countries in Asia have the highest percentage of practicing Muslims in the world.

It may surprise you to know that 14.2% of Indians are Muslim. As a result, the country is home to one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, surpassed only by Indonesia.

Map of the composition of Islam around the world

Islam is also the world’s fastest-growing major religion. The number of Muslims is expected to increase by 70%, from 1.8 billion in 2015 to nearly 3 billion in 2060. The fact that they have the youngest median age, at 24, also helps this population growth.

Judaism

While Jews historically have been found all around the globe, Judaism is highly geographically concentrated today. More than four-fifths of all Jews live in just two countries: the United States and Israel. Israel is the only country with a Jewish majority, with 76% of the population being practicing Jews.

Map of the composition of Judaism around the world

The largest remaining shares of the global Jewish population apart from the U.S. and Israel are in Canada (about 3% of the country’s population), France (2%), the United Kingdom (2%), Germany (2%), Russia (2%) and Argentina (between 1% and 2%).

Unaffiliated

The religiously unaffiliated population includes atheists, agnostics, and people who do not identify with any particular religion. 720 million of the Chinese population consider themselves religiously unaffiliated, while 78% of Czechs feel the same way.

Map of the composition of Unaffiliated around the world

However, it is worth noting that many of the religiously unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs. For example, surveys have found that faith in God or a higher power is shared by 7% of unaffiliated Chinese adults, 30% of unaffiliated French adults, and 68% of unaffiliated U.S. adults.

Hinduism

Hinduism is the third-largest religion worldwide, with approximately 1.2 billion Hindus in many countries. Interestingly, however, Hinduism is the dominant religion in only three countries, India with 79%, Nepal with 80%, and Mauritius with 48%.

Map of the composition of Hinduism around the world

Although Hinduism is rarely a country’s primary religion, it still enjoys a global presence. Many regions around the world support significant populations of Hindus, including the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, North America, and South America.

Buddhism

According to estimates, half the world’s Buddhists live in China. Still, they make up only 18% of the country’s population. Most of the rest of the world’s Buddhists live in East and South Asia, including 13% in Thailand (where 93% of the population is Buddhist).

Map of the composition of Buddhism around the world

Buddhism in Asia is a matter of both identity and practice. Scholars and journalists have documented that many Asian countries may engage in Buddhist practices without considering themselves part of any organized religion.

Folk Religion

Folk religion is any ethnic or cultural religious practice that falls outside the doctrine of organized religion. Grounded on popular beliefs and sometimes called popular or vernacular religion, the term refers to how people experience and practice religion in their daily lives.

Map of the composition of Folk Religion around the world

As of 2020, an estimated 429 million people, about 6% of the world’s total population, were adherents of folk or traditional religions. Some notable folk religions include African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions, and Australian aboriginal religions.

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