These 5 Maps Visualize Population Distribution in a Unique Way
Every once in a while, a data visualization trend organically sweeps through Reddit, the popular social news aggregation site, leading to some eye-catching and interesting user-generated results.
We’ve seen users visualize how they spend their disposable income, how they spend their time, and even details of their relationships. Sometimes these charts are fairly personal and uninteresting to the outside world – but other times, they can be quite compelling to a wider audience.
Population in Fourths
Most recently, in the Data is Beautiful subreddit, the trend has been to use data visualization techniques to split up the maps of countries into four evenly populated areas.
There are hundreds of maps to be found using this technique, but here are just five examples that we thought were particularly interesting. Each one reveals certain things about the population distribution, geography, and urban/rural split in their respective jurisdictions.
The United States
The first map is the least striking, but it creates an interesting baseline – it shows the U.S. divided into four equal sections of population, with no single area standing out as being incredibly dense or sparse:
With over 300 million people spread throughout the country and big population centers in each region, it’s no surprise that this split into fourths is quite even.
However, that will not be the case for the remaining maps.
For example, when we go to the state level the distributions can be more easily impacted by big cities:
This map of California by old_gold_mountain is a great example of this – with three major urban areas (Los Angeles, Bay Area, and San Diego) all holding large amounts of the state’s population, the composition looks quite uneven when it gets divvied up in this way.
But Canada’s sparseness in the north goes to an even greater extreme:
It’s said that 90% of the Canadian population lives within 100km of the U.S. border – and this map by repliers_beware makes it clear that any further north can get pretty remote.
Australia is another country with geographical diversity. Some regions are conducive to civilization and growing great wine, but few species (including humans) find the Outback very hospitable.
In this case, user NaytaData lumps in the Outback with cities like Adelaide and Perth to get this colored area up to the required 25% population mark.
For a very long and narrow finale, here is the country of Chile.
This map by QuietlyEcstatic shows that the capital Santiago and its surrounding area is roughly equal to three other very large sections of the country – including the sparse but beautiful Chilean piece of Patagonia.
Comparing Population Pyramids Around the World
Population pyramids can show a country’s demographic advantages and challenges at a glance. See how different parts of the world stack up.
Understanding and Comparing Population Pyramids
Demographic data can reveal all kinds of insights about a population, from the country’s fertility and mortality rates to how certain events and policies have shaped the makeup of a population.
Population pyramids are one of the best ways to visualize population data, and comparing the pyramids of various countries and regions side-by-side can reveal unexpected insights and differences between groups.
This graphic uses population data from the United Nations to compare the demographics of some select nations and regions of the world, showcasing how much age distributions can vary.
Three Types of Population Pyramids
Although population pyramids can come in all shapes and sizes, most generally fall into three distinct categories:
- Expansive Pyramids: Recognized by their traditional “pyramid-like” shape with a broad base and narrow top, expansive pyramids reflect a population with a high birth rate along with a high mortality rate which is most common in developing countries.
- Constrictive Pyramids: With a narrow base and thicker middle and top sections of the pyramid, constrictive pyramids often occur in developed economies whose populations have low birth rates and long life expectancies.
- Stationary Pyramids: These pyramids showcase an evenly distributed population across age groups, often found in newly-developed countries which have stable birth and mortality rates.
Each population pyramid is essentially a visual snapshot of a nation’s current demographic breakdown, shaped by fluctuating birth and mortality rates as well as changes to immigration and social policies.
Understanding the inherent risks associated with different pyramid types can help give insight into the challenges these populations face.
The Risks of Different Population Pyramid Types
Each type of population pyramid structure has unique challenges and advantages often characterized by the country or region’s current stage of economic development.
Populations with expansive pyramids, such as the one representing the continent of Africa, have the advantage of a larger youth and working-aged population, however this advantage can be rendered null if job growth, education, and health care aren’t prioritized.
Countries with constrictive pyramids like Japan face the challenge of supporting their outsized aging population with a diminishing working-aged population. While immigration and increasing birth rates can help in both the short and long term, due to the working population being outnumbered, countries with constrictive pyramids must find ways to increase their productivity to avoid potential declines in economic growth.
China and India’s Demographics Compared
After the world’s population reached eight billion people last year, 2023 brought a new population milestone as India overtook China as the world’s most populous country.
When you compare the two nations’ population pyramids, you can see how India’s population has a strong base of young and working-aged people compared to China’s more constrictive population pyramid that also features a higher median age.
This demographic difference is largely shaped by China’s one-child policy which since 2021 was loosened to be a three-child policy. As a result, China’s total fertility rate is around 1.2 today, in contrast to India’s total fertility rate of 2.0.
While India is set to ride the productivity boom of its large working-age population, the country will have to ensure it can keep its population pyramid stable as the majority of the population ages and total fertility rates continue to decline.
|Interested in learning more about the various factors that affect demographics?
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