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Demographics

Mapped: Population Density With a Dot For Each Town

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There are many different ways to show population density on a map.

One method, for example, would be to color regions based on people per unit of land. This could be done at the county, state, or national levels with varying results. Alternatively, you could show density more abstractly, such as in this compelling map of the Pearl River Delta in China.

But one surprisingly insightful method for looking at population density is deceivingly simple: just put a dot on the map for every town with 1,000 people or more, and the results will give you a sense of where people live on a macro scale.

Replacing Towns With Dots

Using the dot methodology, it means New York City is the same size as Anytown, USA. This seems crazy, right?

Although this is surely a drawback, the results are still pretty interesting. After all, hubs like New York City are centers of commerce and culture, and they are surrounded by hundreds of other nearby towns.

Let’s take a look at (most of) North America:

North America population density with dots

A few things that are noticeable right away?

You can see the difference in topography between the plains and the more mountainous part of the continent. In flatter places like Nebraska or Saskatchewan, the towns are evenly spread out – and in regions with uneven geography, such as Colorado or British Columbia, towns are typically located in the valleys.

Further, the density in the Northeastern part of the United States and surrounding the Great Lakes work to provide quite a contrast to the emptier parts of the continent.

Natural features like the Everglades are also quite easy to spot on the map – it’s one of the only non-populated areas in an otherwise dense Florida. If you look at the northwestern tip of Wyoming, you’ll also see a lack of dots in the 2 million acres of Yellowstone National Park.

Europe and MENA

Now let’s go across the Atlantic – here’s a map of Europe, North Africa, and most of the Middle East.

(Click to open a larger version)

This map is also pretty spectacular – you can see the cities along the Nile, the “eye” of Moscow, and impressive amounts of population density in places like Belgium, Holland, Germany and Switzerland.

World View

While we haven’t seen a world map using this method, it’s not hard to imagine what places like India, China, Japan, or Bangladesh could look like with dots replacing each town within their borders.

These are the densest parts of the world – to even more extreme levels than the denser parts of Europe shown above.

Here’s a more standard population density map, using people per square kilometer, to give you an idea:

World Population Density

If you’re looking for more perspective on global population density, this unique map is worth a look. It shows how dense the aforementioned Asian region above is in a very compelling and simple way.

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Demographics

Ranked: The Most Populous Cities in the World

Where are the world’s largest cities in terms of population? This graphic looks at the top 20 most populous cities in the world.

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most populous cities

Ranked: The Most Populous Cities in the World

More than half of the world’s population currently lives in cities—and as time goes on, it’s clear that more urban dwellers will find themselves living in megacities.

Megacities are defined as urban areas with a population of more than 10 million people. This means that the world’s top 20 most populous cities are all megacities.

This visualization, using data from Macrotrends, shows the 20 most populous cities in the world.

Rapid Urbanization

Today, more than 80% of people in higher income countries find themselves living in urban areas, and in upper-middle income countries the number lies between 50-80%.

Rural-to-urban migration is an increasingly relevant trend in the 21st century. Prospects of better job opportunities and higher wages, along with shifts from agrarian to industrial and service-based economies, are causing mass movement to cities.

How much have the world’s five most populous cities grown in just the last decade?

RankCity 2010 Population 2020 Population Percentage Change
#1🇯🇵 Tokyo36,834,00037,393,000+1.5%
#2🇮🇳 Delhi21,935,00030,291,000+38.1%
#3🇨🇳 Shanghai19,980,00027,058,000+35.4%
#4🇧🇷 São Paulo19,660,00022,043,000+12.1%
#5🇲🇽 Mexico City 20,132,00021,782,000+8.2%

While Tokyo only gained 559,000 people between 2010 and 2020, Delhi gained over 8 million people in the same time frame.

Shanghai grew by over 7 million people. Meanwhile, São Paulo grew by more than 2 million, and Mexico City gained just over 1.6 million people.

Interestingly, Mexico City placed third on the top largest cities list in 2010, but has since experienced slower growth compared to its competitors, Shanghai and São Paulo.

The Most Populous Cities Today

While Tokyo is the world’s most populous city with 37,393,000 people, this number is leveling out due to declining birth rates and an aging population.

Indian and Chinese cities, on the other hand, will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years. In fact, it’s expected that Delhi’s population could surpass Tokyo’s by 2028.

Here’s a closer look at the top 20 most populous cities.

RankCityPopulation
1🇯🇵 Tokyo37,393,000
2🇮🇳 Delhi30,291,000
3🇨🇳 Shanghai27,058,000
4🇧🇷 São Paulo22,043,000
5🇲🇽 Mexico City21,782,000
6🇧🇩 Dhaka21,006,000
7🇪🇬 Cairo20,901,000
8🇨🇳 Beijing20,463,000
9🇮🇳 Mumbai20,411,000
10🇯🇵 Osaka19,165,000
11🇺🇸 New York City18,804,000
12🇵🇰 Karachi16,094,000
13🇨🇳 Chongqing15,872,000
14🇹🇷 Istanbul15,190,000
15🇦🇷 Buenos Aires15,154,000
16🇮🇳 Calcutta14,850,000
17🇳🇬 Lagos14,368,000
18🇨🇩 Kinshasa14,342,000
19🇵🇭 Manila13,923,000
20🇨🇳 Tianjin13,580,000

By 2035, two new cities are expected to crack the top 20 list. Specifically, it’s projected that Bangalore (India) and Lahore (Pakistan) will boot out Tianjin and Buenos Aires. In addition, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Chennai are all expected to meet the megacity definition by 2035.

Urban growth will continue mainly in Asia and Africa, as some cities in regions such as Europe actually begin to shrink in population due to aging citizens and declining birth rates. Since 2012, deaths in the EU have actually been outpacing births—and in 2019, there were 4.7 million deaths compared to 4.2 million births, though net migration kept population numbers from falling.

Life in the City

While there are certainly downsides to mass urbanization, like pollution and overcrowding, the upsides clearly outweigh the negatives for most people. Convenience, better jobs, easier access to social services, and higher wages are among the many reasons people are likely to continue to move to cities, even in the post-COVID era.

With the emergence of smart and green cities, the quality of life for many urban dwellers will likely continue to improve, and more large urban areas will morph into megacities.

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Misc

Visualizing the U.S. Population by Race

America is a cultural mosaic—nearly 40% identify as a visible minority today. Here we break down the U.S. population by race by state.

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US population by race

Visualizing the U.S. Population by Race

The American population is a unique mosaic of cultures—and almost 40% of people identify as racial or ethnic minorities today.

In this treemap, we use data for 2019 from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which bases its analysis on the latest American Community Survey (ACS) data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Then we break down the same data on a state-by-state basis.

Growing Diversity in America

As of 2019, here is the current distribution of the U.S. population by race and ethnicity:

  • White: 60.1% (Non-Hispanic)
  • Hispanic: 18.5%
  • Black: 12.2%
  • Asian: 5.6%
  • Multiple Races: 2.8%
  • American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.7%
  • Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander: 0.2%

Note that the U.S. totals do not include Puerto Rico.

However, these race and ethnicity projections are expected to change over the coming years. By the year 2060, it’s expected that the distribution of Non-Hispanic Whites as a percentage of total population will fall from 60.1% to 44.3% of Americans.

YearWhite*BlackHispanicAsianMultiple RacesOther**
202059.7%12.5%18.7%5.8%2.3%0.9%
202557.7%12.7%19.9%6.3%2.6%0.9%
203055.8%12.8%21.1%6.7%2.8%0.9%
203553.8%12.9%22.3%7.1%3.1%0.9%
204051.7%13.0%23.5%7.5%3.4%0.9%
204549.7%13.1%24.6%7.9%3.8%0.9%
205047.8%13.3%25.7%8.2%4.1%0.9%
205546.0%13.4%26.6%8.5%4.5%0.9%
206044.3%13.6%27.5%8.9%4.9%0.9%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau. *Excludes Hispanics **Other includes American Indian/Alaska Native (0.7%) and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (0.2%). Both proportions remain unchanged in these projections.

Interestingly, the proportion of those from multiple racial and ethnic backgrounds will more than double, from 2.3% to 4.9% alongside rising patterns of interracial marriage.

Over time, the U.S. Census has been vastly expanded to reflect the true diversity that the country holds. In fact, it was only from 1960 onwards that people could select their own race—and only from 2020 can those who chose White or Black provide further information on their roots.

A State-by-State Breakdown

Of course, racial diversity in the United States differs widely from region to region.

In the Northeast—particularly the states Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire—the Non-Hispanic White population accounts for 90% or more of the total. In contrast, Black populations are highest in the District of Columbia (45%) and several Southern states.

LocationWhiteBlackHispanicAsianMultiple RacesAmerican Indian
/Alaska Native
Native Hawaiian
/Other Pacific Islander
Alabama65%27%4%1%2%0%-
Alaska60%2%7%6%8%15%2%
Arizona54%4%32%3%2%4%0%
Arkansas72%15%8%2%2%1%0%
California36%5%40%15%3%0%0%
Colorado68%4%22%3%3%1%0%
Connecticut66%10%17%5%3%0%-
Delaware61%22%10%4%3%0%-
District of Columbia37%45%11%4%3%0%-
Florida53%15%27%3%2%0%0%
Georgia52%31%10%4%3%0%0%
Hawaii20%1%10%39%18%0%10%
Idaho82%1%13%1%3%1%-
Illinois61%14%18%6%2%0%<.01
Indiana79%9%7%2%2%0%-
Iowa85%4%6%2%2%0%<.01
Kansas76%6%12%3%3%1%-
Kentucky85%8%4%2%2%0%-
Louisiana59%32%5%2%2%1%-
Maine93%1%2%1%2%1%-
Maryland50%30%11%6%3%0%-
Massachusetts71%7%12%7%3%0%<.01
Michigan75%13%5%3%3%1%-
Minnesota79%6%6%5%3%1%-
Mississippi57%38%3%1%1%0%-
Missouri79%11%4%2%3%0%0%
Montana86%1%4%1%3%6%-
Nebraska79%5%11%2%2%1%-
Nevada48%9%29%9%4%1%1%
New Hampshire90%1%4%3%2%--
New Jersey55%12%21%10%2%0%-
New Mexico37%2%50%2%2%9%-
New York55%14%19%9%3%0%-
North Carolina63%21%10%3%3%1%<.01
North Dakota84%2%4%1%3%5%-
Ohio79%12%4%2%3%0%-
Oklahoma65%7%11%2%7%8%0%
Oregon75%2%13%5%4%1%0%
Pennsylvania76%10%8%4%2%0%<.01
Puerto Rico1%0%98%-0%--
Rhode Island71%6%17%3%3%0%-
South Carolina64%26%6%2%2%0%-
South Dakota82%2%4%1%2%8%-
Tennessee74%16%6%2%2%0%-
Texas41%12%40%5%2%0%0%
Utah78%1%14%2%3%1%1%
Vermont93%1%2%2%2%1%-
Virginia61%19%10%7%3%0%<.01
Washington68%4%13%9%5%1%1%
West Virginia93%3%1%1%2%0%-
Wisconsin81%6%7%3%2%1%-
Wyoming84%1%10%1%2%2%-
U.S.60.1%12.2%18.5%5.6%2.8%0.7%0.2%

Note: A dash (-) indicates estimates with relative standard errors greater than 30%, which were not included in the data

Of all the 50 states, Hawaii is home to the largest share of Asian populations at 39%. It also has one of the most diverse racial breakdowns in the nation overall, including the highest proportion of mixed race individuals.

Looking to another island, an overwhelming majority (98%) of Puerto Ricans are of Hispanic origins. While it’s not a state, its inhabitants are all considered U.S. citizens.

Charting the U.S. population by race is crucial for a number of reasons. This information can be used to better understand existing income and wealth gaps, track public health outcomes, and to aid in policy decision-making at higher levels.

We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.

—Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the U.S.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to better reflect U.S. Census Bureau categories.

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