Population Distribution & Density

By Alex Jackson

Last updated on

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The content on this page is extremely old. Much has changed in the world since this article was written. While many of the concepts will still be relevant, figures and case studies are likely to be outdated at this point.

  • Population distribution describes the way that people are spread out across the Earth’s surface.
  • Population density describes the number of people living in a given area. It is calculated as follows:

Population Density = Number Of People In an Area / Size of Area

  • Population distributions are often shown by means of a dot map, were each dot represents a given number of people.
  • They provide a quick overview of the general characteristics of a distribution as well as indications of areas of high or low density e.g. Nile Valley in Egypt (where 99% of the country’s population live on 4% of the total land area).
  • Population density can be displayed on a dot map.

Limitations Of Dot Maps

  • If many dots are concentrated in one part of the map then they will overlap making it difficult to identify one symbol from another making comparison of densities more difficult.
  • They may suggest (incorrectly) that some areas are totally uninhabited e.g. Areas away from the Nile in Egypt when in fact there are insufficient numbers to warrant a symbol.

Distribution Of Africa’s Population

Much of Africa’s population is distributed close to water sources. Close to coasts and lakes the population is very dense. Nigeria is particularly densely populated. The north and south of the African continent is far more sparsely populated with countries such as Niger having very few people per square kilometre. These areas are sparsely populated due to the lack of water sources making developing the area and survival difficult. Areas such as Nigeria are closer to the sea, making it more densely populated due to the availability of a port for trade, and therefore work. Finally, areas such as Ghana are likely more densely populated due to the availability of water from lakes (e.g. Lake Volta).