Charted: The World’s Most Populous Countries (1973–2023)
The World’s Most Populous Countries (1973–2023)
Humankind is now double the size it was in 1973.
Of course, that growth has been far from uniform, and the ranking of the world’s most populous countries continues to evolve.
Using the latest data available from the United Nations, we’ve looked at which countries have the largest share of the planet’s eight billion people.
The Top 10 Most Populous Countries
Here are the countries shown above, including how much they’ve grown over the past 50 years:
|Country||Population (1973)||Population (2023)||Change (1973–2023)|
|🇺🇸 United States||207,314,772||339,996,567||132,681,795|
The numbers above highlight the extreme variance in growth for these world’s most populous countries. While Germany has grown by just 6% over the past 50 years, Pakistan and Nigeria have nearly quadrupled their populations.
Half a century ago, there were only six countries with populations of over 100 million. Today, there are 15 countries past that mark, with Vietnam positioned to hit that milestone next.
The Top 20 Most Populous Countries
Things get even more interesting when we examine the top 20 most populous countries over the same time period.
|Country||Population (1973)||Rank (1973)||Population (2023)||Rank (2023)|
|🇺🇸 United States||207,314,772||3||339,996,567||3|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||56,166,630||12||67,736,798||21|
Looking back 50 years ago, Nigeria was the lone African nation in the top 20. Today, it is joined by Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – all of which have experienced staggering population growth.
African nations are expected to lead population growth over the next few decades. By 2100, one quarter of the world’s people are expected to be African.
Europe is the flip side of this equation. Back in 1973, there were six European countries in this top list. Today, only Russia and Germany remain, with the latter country soon to fall out of the top 20 ranking.
Ukraine, which was shrinking, is expected to fall to at least 41st place due to the turmoil surrounding the Russian invasion of the country. Since the invasion began in February 2022, nearly 14 million border crossings have been recorded from Ukraine to other countries.
How Big Will Populations Get?
Once India becomes the world’s largest country, it will likely remain so for many decades in the future, peaking in the 2060s (unless there are substantial changes in projected growth rates). India’s peak population will stand at around 1.7 billion people.
The world’s population is expected to peak later, around the 2080s. Humanity’s peak population is expected to be about 10.5 billion.
Mapped: The World’s Legal Government Systems
The political regimes of the world’s countries have changed over centuries. This map charts the nine government systems that rule the world today.
Mapping The World’s Legal Government Systems
With over 200 countries existing across the world with unique cultures and traditions, one might assume that there are hundreds of types of government systems. But both historically and in modern times, that’s not the case.
Even while political regimes across these countries have changed over time, they’ve largely followed a few different types of governance. Today, every country can ultimately be classified into just nine broad forms of government systems.
This map by Truman Du uses information from Wikipedia to map the government systems that rule the world today.
Countries By Type of Government
It’s important to note that this map charts government systems according to each country’s legal framework.
Many countries have constitutions stating their de jure or legally recognized system of government, but their de facto or realized form of governance may be quite different.
Here is a list of the stated government system of UN member states and observers as of January 2023:
|Country||Constitutional form||Head of state|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Constitutional monarchy||Ceremonial|
|Bahamas, The||Constitutional monarchy||Ceremonial|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Republic||Ceremonial|
|Central African Republic||Republic||Executive|
|China, People's Republic of||Republic||Ceremonial|
|Congo, Democratic Republic of the||Republic||Executive|
|Congo, Republic of the||Republic||Executive|
|New Zealand||Constitutional monarchy||Ceremonial|
|Papua New Guinea||Constitutional monarchy||Ceremonial|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Constitutional monarchy||Ceremonial|
|Saint Lucia||Constitutional monarchy||Ceremonial|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Constitutional monarchy||Ceremonial|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||Republic||Executive|
|Saudi Arabia||Absolute monarchy||Executive|
|Solomon Islands||Constitutional monarchy||Ceremonial|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Republic||Ceremonial|
|United Arab Emirates||Constitutional monarchy||Executive|
|United Kingdom||Constitutional monarchy||Ceremonial|
|Vatican City||Absolute monarchy||Executive|
Let’s take a closer look at some of these systems.
Brought back into the spotlight after the death of Queen Elizabeth II of England in September 2022, this form of government has a single ruler. They carry titles from king and queen to sultan or emperor, and their government systems can be further divided into three modern types: constitutional, semi-constitutional, and absolute.
A constitutional monarchy sees the monarch act as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, giving them little to no real power. For example, King Charles III is the head of 15 Commonwealth nations including Canada and Australia. However, each has their own head of government.
On the other hand, a semi-constitutional monarchy lets the monarch or ruling royal family retain substantial political powers, as is the case in Jordan and Morocco. However, their monarchs still rule the country according to a democratic constitution and in concert with other institutions.
Finally, an absolute monarchy is most like the monarchies of old, where the ruler has full power over governance, with modern examples including Saudi Arabia and Vatican City.
Unlike monarchies, the people hold the power in a republic government system, directly electing representatives to form government. Again, there are multiple types of modern republic governments: presidential, semi-presidential, and parliamentary.
The presidential republic could be considered a direct progression from monarchies. This system has a strong and independent chief executive with extensive powers when it comes to domestic affairs and foreign policy. An example of this is the United States, where the President is both the head of state and the head of government.
In a semi-presidential republic, the president is the head of state and has some executive powers that are independent of the legislature. However, the prime minister (or chancellor or equivalent title) is the head of government, responsible to the legislature along with the cabinet. Russia is a classic example of this type of government.
The last type of republic system is parliamentary. In this system, the president is a figurehead, while the head of government holds real power and is validated by and accountable to the parliament. This type of system can be seen in Germany, Italy, and India and is akin to constitutional monarchies.
It’s also important to point out that some parliamentary republic systems operate slightly differently. For example in South Africa, the president is both the head of state and government, but is elected directly by the legislature. This leaves them (and their ministries) potentially subject to parliamentary confidence.
Many of the systems above involve multiple political parties vying to rule and govern their respective countries.
In a one-party state, also called a single-party state or single-party system, only one political party has the right to form government. All other political parties are either outlawed or only allowed limited participation in elections.
In this system, a country’s head of state and head of government can be executive or ceremonial but political power is constitutionally linked to a single political movement. China is the most well-known example of this government system, with the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China ruling as the de facto leader since 1989.
The final form of government is a provisional government formed as an interim or transitional government.
In this system, an emergency governmental body is created to manage political transitions after the collapse of a government, or when a new state is formed. Often these evolve into fully constitutionalized systems, but sometimes they hold power for longer than expected.
Some examples of countries that are considered provisional include Libya, Burkina Faso, and Chad.
Datastream2 weeks ago
Mapped: Legal Sports Betting Totals by State
Energy3 weeks ago
Which Countries are Buying Russian Fossil Fuels?
Datastream1 week ago
The Largest U.S. Bank Failures in Modern History
Markets3 weeks ago
Visualized: The State of the U.S. Labor Market
Economy1 week ago
The Growing Auto Loan Problem Facing Young Americans
Africa3 weeks ago
Ranked: Who Are the Richest People in Africa?
Datastream1 week ago
Will Connected Cars Break the Internet?
Energy3 weeks ago
Mapped: Asia’s Biggest Sources of Electricity by Country