Distribution of Population
In terms of continents and countries the world's population is very ill balanced. More than half of the world's people live in Asia (excluding countries of the ex-U.S.S.R.) which accounts for only one-fifth of the world's land area, while North, Central and South America together, occupying more than a quarter of the land surface, have only one seventh of the population. The African continent also accounts for a quarter of the land surface but has just over one-tenth of the world population. On the other hand Europe, whose area is only one twenty-fifth of the total has about one-ninth of the world's people.
The distribution within the continents is also uneven. In Asia, China alone with about 900 million people, accounts for half the Asian and a quarter of the world population. The Indian subcontinent has a further 850 million people. In Europe too, the population is unevenly distributed. Far more people live in northern and western European countries than in southern and eastern Europe. The U.S.S.R. is the largest country in the world and has 259 million people but only a quarter of them live in the Asian section. In Africa and the Americas people are for the most pan spread very thinly across the land, leaving large sections such as northern Canada, southwestern U.S.A., the Sahara Desert, and the Amazon Forests practically uninhabited.
The distribution of population, depends to a large extent on the quality of the land and itself, which is very uneven. Where the land is well suited to agricultural or there are natural resources for industrial development the population will naturally be larger than in areas where climatic conditions are hostile or where resources are few.
Thus the distribution of population has all along been quite uneven. More than 90% of population lives in the Northern hemisphere. The continent of Asia (inc.ex-USSR) alone has nearly two thirds of the World's population. Countries having more than 100 million persons (1985) are given below
Country Population (in million)
ex-Soviet Union 280
The United States 241
The distribution of population even by continents shows considerable variation in growth rates. Africa has a growth rate of 2.6 percent annually, Asia 2.3 per cent and America 2.1 per cent. Europe alone (excluding countries of the former U.S.S.R.) has a rate below 1 percent (0.8 per cent in recent years). Within each continent there are further differences. Larger areas of tropical South America and Central America are growing at 3 per cent or more, with Southeast and Southwest Asia not far behind.
This is complex enough, but there are further complexities. Not only is the density of population per square kilometer or per square kilometer of cultivated land-uneven, but also the urban-rural distribution of the world's populations is also strikingly uneven.
Now, the main question before us is What are the causes of this great unevenness of population on this earth? Or: what causes differences in densities of population?
Next: Economic and Cultural Factors