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Mapped: The World’s Most Populous Countries, in Ascending Order

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Mapping the Most Populous Countries, in Ascending Order

To keep information from getting stale, it can be worth changing things up.

One way to do this is to present data in a different way than what is traditionally expected, enabling a fresh perspective of the same information.

Today’s animated map comes to us from Reddit user notoriousstats, and it provides another angle of looking at a traditional world map: by plotting countries in the order of ascending populations, from the least populated to the most populated.

Filling a Map from Scratch

In the above animation, countries are added onto the map in sequence — each must have a minimum population of 1 million people — going from Swaziland (now officially known as Eswatini) all the way up to China.

It’s a visual trick that helps trigger some new insights, specifically about the population density of countries and continents. Let’s dive into a couple things that stood out.

Insights on Population Density

We naturally assume that the bigger a country is, the more people it usually has.

However, when we watch an animation like this, it becomes clear that this is not often the case. In fact, many large countries appear on the map early on — taking massive amounts of geographic real estate, but with very low populations.

Below is a list of the 10 countries with the lowest population densities on the planet:

RankCountryPopulationDensity (sq. km)Density (sq. mi)
#1🇲🇳 Mongolia3,225,0002.085.38
#2🇳🇦 Namibia2,495,0003.037.85
#3🇦🇺 Australia25,203,0003.308.55
#4🇱🇾 Libya6,777,0003.859.98
#5🇧🇼 Botswana2,304,0004.0710.53
#6🇨🇦 Canada37,411,0004.1110.66
#7🇲🇷 Mauritania4,526,0004.4111.43
#8🇰🇿 Kazakhstan18,551,0006.8717.80
#9🇨🇫 Central African Rep.4,745,0007.6219.73
#10🇬🇦 Gabon2,173,0008.4321.84

Using this and the map as reference, what stands out?

Africa in Focus

Africa has over 1.2 billion people living on it, so we often think of the continent as having a fairly high population density.

However, if you watch the animation, you’ll notice that many of the first countries appearing on the map are African — in fact, six of the 10 least densely populated countries in the world are on the continent: Namibia, Libya, Botswana, Mauritania, Central African Republic, and Gabon.

The reason for this lack of population density lies partly in geography.

We are all familiar with the vast extent of the Sahara (which makes most of Libya and Maritania desolate), but have you heard of the Namib or Kalahari deserts in the south?

The Namib takes away Namibia’s entire coastline, while the Kalahari makes most of Botswana and parts of Namibia almost inhospitable.

Juxtapositions

The animated map also creates some eye-popping juxtapositions between countries, which are appearing in order of population.

For example, Australia and North Korea appear in sequence. Both have about 26 million people, but Australia has a landmass that is about 63 times as large.

Russia and Bangladesh are also back-to-back; Russia has 145 million people, while Bangladesh has 163 million. Yet, if Russia had the population density of Bangladesh, it would be home to 19 billion people, which is three times the current global total.

Changing Perspectives

If we always look at things the same way, it’s hard to notice something new.

Each time we view a map from a different angle, it creates the opportunity to discover new insights. This same thought process can be applied to other areas of life, so that we can always be learning — and data never gets stale.

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Markets

Who Owns the Most Vehicles per Capita, by Country?

Here are the highest vehicles per capita by country as a growing global middle class is fueling car ownership rates around the world.

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This bar graph shows the number of vehicles per 1,000 people around the world.

Who Owns the Most Vehicles per Capita, by Country?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

In 2020, there were 289 million vehicles in use in America, or about 18% of the global total.

With one of the largest car ownership rates worldwide, the number of U.S. cars on the road have more than doubled since the 1960s. But how does ownership compare to other countries, and who is seeing the fastest growth rates amid a rising global middle class?

This graphic shows vehicles per capita by country, based on data from the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA).

Highest Car Ownership Rates Worldwide

Below, we rank countries based on the number of registered vehicles in use per 1,000 people, including both passenger cars and commercial vehicles as of 2020:

CountryNumber of Vehicles in Use
per 1000 Inhabitants
Average Annual Growth Rate
2015-2020
🇳🇿 New Zealand8693%
🇺🇸 U.S.8602%
🇵🇱 Poland7614%
🇮🇹 Italy7561%
🇦🇺 Australia7372%
🇨🇦 Canada7073%
🇫🇷 France7041%
🇨🇿 Czechia6583%
🇵🇹 Portugal6402%
🇳🇴 Norway6351%
🇦🇹 Austria6322%
🇬🇧 UK6322%
🇩🇪 Germany6272%
🇪🇸 Spain6272%
🇬🇷 Greece6171%
🇯🇵 Japan6120%
🇨🇭 Switzerland6041%
🇧🇪 Belgium5901%
🇳🇱 Netherlands5882%
🇫🇮 Finland5771%
🇸🇪 Sweden5441%
🇩🇰 Denmark5402%
🇮🇪 Ireland5403%
🇲🇾 Malaysia5356%
🇸🇰 Slovakia5133%
🇱🇾 Libya4904%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria485-1%
🇭🇷 Croatia4743%
🇸🇾 Syria4727%
🇭🇺 Hungary4634%
🇰🇷 South Korea4582%
🇷🇴 Romania4387%
🇮🇱 Israel4044%
🇷🇺 Russia3892%
🇧🇾 Belarus3871%
🇲🇽 Mexico3584%
🇹🇼 Taiwan3441%
🇦🇪 UAE3438%
🇷🇸 Serbia3304%
🇦🇷 Argentina3110%
🇹🇭 Thailand2775%
🇨🇱 Chile2461%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan226-1%
🇨🇳 China22314%
🇹🇷 Türkiye2204%
🇧🇷 Brazil2141%
🇺🇦 Ukraine192-1%
🇮🇷 Iran1832%
🇿🇦 South Africa1761%
🇪🇨 Ecuador1523%
🇻🇪 Venezuela149-1%
🇩🇿 Algeria1443%
🇲🇦 Morocco1124%
🇨🇴 Colombia1111%
🇮🇶 Iraq1114%
🇵🇪 Peru884%
🇮🇩 Indonesia785%
🇪🇬 Egypt644%
🇳🇬 Nigeria565%
🇻🇳 Vietnam5017%
🇵🇭 Philippines383%
🇮🇳 India3310%
🇵🇰 Pakistan207%

Clinching top spot is New Zealand, a country known for its love of cars.

With nearly nine cars on the road to every 10 people, this figure is notably high considering that children make up about 20% of the population. The majority of cars are imported second hand from Japan thanks to a wave of deregulation in the 1980s along with the country being a major producer of right-hand drive cars.

The U.S. falls close behind, with a clear preference for trucks and SUVs. In fact, the Ford F-1 Series has been the best-selling vehicle in America for 42 consecutive years.

In Europe, Poland has the highest number of vehicles per person, but one of the lowest share of electric vehicles (EVs). While EVs make up nearly 16% of all cars in top-ranking country Norway, they comprise 0.1% in Poland. On average, EVs account for 0.8% of passenger cars in the European Union.

Driven by an expanding middle class, Vietnam has seen the fastest growth in ownership. Between 2015 and 2020, the motorization rate grew by an astonishing 17% each year. Additionally, China witnessed 14% growth while India’s vehicles per 1,000 people increased 10% annually over the period.

The Top EV Markets, by Country

As EV sales gain momentum, here are the biggest markets worldwide, based on the number of all-EV cars in use as of 2022:

CountryEstimated Number of EVs in Use
2022
🇨🇳 China11,000,000
🇺🇸 U.S.2,100,000
🇩🇪 Germany1,000,000
🇫🇷 France620,000
🇳🇴 Norway590,000
🇬🇧 UK550,000
🇳🇱 Netherlands340,000
🇰🇷 South Korea300,000
🇨🇦 Canada250,000
🇯🇵 Japan210,000

Source: IEA Global EV Outlook 2023

China is home to over half of the world’s EVs.

Its foothold on the global EV market can be explained by its close proximity to the raw materials used in EV batteries. In fact, China produces roughly 70% of the world’s rare earth metals and has more battery production capacity than all other countries combined.

Adding to this, China developed key government policies that specifically tackled operational hurdles, such as battery constraints, leading to innovation in core technologies. In 2023, EVs made up 31% of all car sales in China, boosted by government incentives and strong consumer demand.

Norway is another leader in the EV market, whose government began introducing EV policies as early as 1990. By 2025, the country aims to phase out internal combustion engine vehicle sales completely. About 80% of all vehicles sales in Norway were EVs in 2022, the highest in the world.

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