Mapped: Population Density With a Dot For Each Town
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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

Charted: The World’s Working Poor, by Country (1991-2021)

This graphic shows the regional breakdown of the world’s working poor, and how this demographic has changed since 1995.

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Charting 3 decades of the world's working poor

Charting Three Decades of the World’s Working Poor

Poverty is often associated with unemployment—however, millions of working people around the world are living in what’s considered to be extreme poverty, or less than $1.90 per day.

Thankfully, the world’s population of poor workers has decreased substantially over the last few decades. But how exactly has it changed since 1991, and where is the majority of the working poor population living today?

This graphic by Gilbert Fontana uses data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) to show the regional breakdown of the world’s working poor, and how this demographic has changed in the last few decades.

From Asia to Africa

In 1991, about 808 million employed people were living in extreme poverty, or nearly 15% of the global population at the time.

As the graphic above shows, a majority of this population lived in Eastern Asia, most notably in China, which was the world’s most populous country until only very recently.

However, thanks to China’s economic reforms, and political reforms like the National “8-7” Poverty Reduction Plan, millions of people in the country were lifted out of poverty.

Today, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the world’s highest concentration of working poor. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the region and zoom in on select countries.

Zooming in on Sub-Saharan Africa

As of 2021, 11 of the 49 countries that make up Sub-Saharan Africa had a working poverty rate that made up over half their population.

Here’s a look at these 11 countries, and the percentage of their working population that lives in extreme poverty:

RankCountryWorking Poverty Rate (% of total population)
1🇧🇮 Burundi79%
2🇲🇬 Madagascar76%
3🇨🇩 DR Condo69%
4🇲🇼 Malawi65%
5🇨🇫 Central African Republic63%
6🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau61%
7🇲🇿 Mozambique61%
8🇨🇬 Congo59%
9🇿🇲 Zambia56%
10🇦🇴 Angola52%
11🇱🇷 Liberia51%

Burundi is first on the list, with 79% of its working population living below the poverty line. One reason for this is the country’s struggling economy—Burundi has the lowest GDP per capita of any country in the world.

Because of the economic conditions in the country, many people struggle to meet their basic needs. For instance, it’s estimated that 40% of urban dwellers in Burundi don’t have access to safe drinking water.

But Burundi is not alone, with other countries like Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo also having more than two-thirds of their working population in extreme poverty. Which countries will be able to able to lift their people out of poverty next?

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