World Population Growth Visualized (1950-2100)
In any large set of data, there are bound to be some interesting outliers.
Today’s data visualization comes to us from Reddit user /r/mythicquale and it shows the population growth of every country using data and projections from the United Nations population division.
The graph is on a logarithmic scale, which ultimately groups together most growth rates even though they would be much further apart on a linear scale. This means the places outside of the middle range are the true outliers, gaining or losing many multiples of their original populations.
These are the stories that are worth looking at in more depth.
World Population Growth Outliers
How the population grows in any particular country is a function of fertility, mortality, and migration rates, and these outliers each have something anomalous happening at least one of these factors.
In 1995, a previously dormant volcano erupted in this British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean, destroying the island’s capital city of Plymouth. People evacuated, mostly fleeing to the United Kingdom, and the population of the island dropped by two-thirds over the period of five years.
Interestingly, Plymouth is still listed as the territory’s capital city today, making it the only capital city of a political jurisdiction that is completely abandoned.
Dubai was once a fishing village, but now it’s an international real estate hub. Abu Dhabi had just 25,000 people in 1960, and today it’s a metropolis of almost 2 million people.
Oil wealth and significant investment is one side of the story, but the influx of foreign workers is an even bigger one. In fact, U.A.E. citizens only make up 11.5% of the population, and the rest (88.5%) is made of workers mostly from South Asia.
It’s also worth mentioning that immigrant labor in the U.A.E. has been the subject of scrutiny internationally, as there have been instances of human rights violations and accusations of forced labor.
Qatar is another Middle Eastern country that has shot up in population, and it carries a similar story to the United Arab Emirates. Only about 12% of the population is Qatari, and the rest consists of migrant works mostly from South Asia. Qatar, which has the highest GDP per capita in the world, also has faced similar allegations as the U.A.E. regarding the use of forced labor.
Back in 1950, Qatar’s population was just 50,000, but today the country boasts 2.6 million people.
Visualizing Over A Century of Global Fertility
Global fertility has almost halved in the past century. Which countries are most resilient, and which have experienced the most dramatic changes over time?
Visualizing Over A Century of World Fertility
In just 50 years, world fertility rates have been cut in half.
This sea change can be attributed to multiple factors, ranging from medical advances to greater gender equity. But generally speaking, as more women gain an education and enter the workforce, they’re delaying motherhood and often having fewer children in the process.
Today’s interactive data visualization was put together by Bo McCready, the Director of Analytics at KIPP Texas. Using numbers from Our World in Data, it depicts the changes in the world’s fertility rate—the average number of children per woman—spanning from the beginning of the 20th century to present day.
A Demographic Decline
The global fertility rate fell from 5.25 children per woman in 1900, to 2.44 children per woman in 2018. The steepest drop in this shift happened in a single decade, from 1970 to 1980.
In the interactive graphic, you’ll see graphs for 200 different countries and political entities showing their total fertility rate (FTR) over time. Here’s a quick summary of the countries with the highest and lowest FTRs, as of 2017:
|Top 10 Countries||Fertility rate||Bottom 10 Countries||Fertility Rate|
|🇳🇪 Niger||7.13||🇹🇼 Taiwan||1.22|
|🇸🇴 Somalia||6.08||🇲🇩 Moldova||1.23|
|🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo||5.92||🇵🇹 Portugal||1.24|
|🇲🇱 Mali||5.88||🇸🇬 Singapore||1.26|
|🇹🇩 Chad||5.75||🇵🇱 Poland||1.29|
|🇦🇴 Angola||5.55||🇬🇷 Greece||1.3|
|🇧🇮 Burundi||5.53||🇰🇷 South Korea||1.33|
|🇺🇬 Uganda||5.41||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||1.34|
|🇳🇬 Nigeria||5.39||🇨🇾 Cyprus||1.34|
|🇬🇲 Gambia||5.29||🇲🇴 Macao||1.36|
At a glance, the countries with the highest fertility are all located in Africa, while several Asian countries end up in the lowest fertility list.
The notable decade of decline in average global fertility can be partially traced back to the actions of the demographic giants China and India. In the 1970s, China’s controversial “one child only” policy and India’s state-led sterilization campaigns caused sharp declines in births for both countries. Though they hold over a quarter of the world’s population today, the effects of these government decisions are still being felt.
Population Plateau, or Cliff?
The overall decline in fertility rates isn’t expected to end anytime soon, and it’s even expected to fall past 2.1 children per woman, which is known as the “replacement rate”. Any fertility below this rate signals fewer new babies than parents, leading to an eventual population decline.
Experts predict that world fertility will further drop from 2.5 to 1.9 children per woman by 2100. This means that global population growth will slow down or possibly even go negative.
Africa will continue to be the only region with significant growth—consistent with the generous fertility rates of Nigeria, the DRC, and Angola. In fact, the continent is expected to house 13 of the world’s largest megacities, as its population expands from 1.3 billion to 4.3 billion by 2100.
How Facebook is Using Machine Learning to Map the World Population
Machine learning technology is allowing researchers at Facebook to map the world population in unprecedented detail.
When it comes to knowing where humans around the world actually live, resources come in varying degrees of accuracy and sophistication.
Heavily urbanized and mature economies generally produce a wealth of up-to-date information on population density and granular demographic data. In rural Africa or fast-growing regions in the developing world, tracking methods cannot always keep up, or in some cases may be non-existent.
This is where new maps, produced by researchers at Facebook, come in. Building upon CIESIN’s Gridded Population of the World project, Facebook is using machine learning models on high-resolution satellite imagery to paint a definitive picture of human settlement around the world. Let’s zoom in.
Connecting the Dots
Will all other details stripped away, human settlement can form some interesting patterns. One of the most compelling examples is Egypt, where 95% of the population lives along the Nile River. Below, we can clearly see where people live, and where they don’t.
View the full-resolution version of this map.
While it is possible to use a tool like Google Earth to view nearly any location on the globe, the problem is analyzing the imagery at scale. This is where machine learning comes into play.
Finding the People in the Petabytes
High-resolution imagery of the entire globe takes up about 1.5 petabytes of storage, making the task of classifying the data extremely daunting. It’s only very recently that technology was up to the task of correctly identifying buildings within all those images.
To get the results we see today, researchers used process of elimination to discard locations that couldn’t contain a building, then ranked them based on the likelihood they could contain a building.
Facebook identified structures at scale using a process called weakly supervised learning. After training the model using large batches of photos, then checking over the results, Facebook was able to reach a 99.6% labeling accuracy for positive examples.
Why it Matters
An accurate picture of where people live can be a matter of life and death.
For humanitarian agencies working in Africa, effectively distributing aid or vaccinating populations is still a challenge due to the lack of reliable maps and population density information. Researchers hope that these detailed maps will be used to save lives and improve living conditions in developing regions.
For example, Malawi is one of the world’s least urbanized countries, so finding its 19 million citizens is no easy task for people doing humanitarian work there. These maps clearly show where people live and allow organizations to create accurate population density estimates for specific areas.
Visit the project page for a full explanation and to access the full database of country maps.
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