Population Distribution and Density:

Objective: To describe the factors influencing the density and distribution of population

You need to be able to describe the distribution of the worlds population and be able to explain why population density varies around the world.


Population Density: The number of people living in a given area, usually per km2. Singapore is a country with a very high population density and Australia is a country with a very low population density. El Salvador has the highest population density in Central America.

Population Distribution: This is how a population is spread out around a country or an area. If a country’s population is distributed in a regular pattern then we say it has an even population distribution. However, if there are areas with many people and then areas with few people, then we would say that it has an uneven population distribution.

Sparse population: When not many people live in an area e.g. the centre of Australia.

Dense population: When a lot of people live in an area e.g. the Melbourne area.

1) Look carefully at the map below and answer the questions.

Map 1: Population Density Map 2010. (wikipedia)

a) Where are the most densley populated regions of the world? Give names of regions and countries.

b) Why do you think the more populated areas are close to the coast?

c) Name a sparsely populated region of the world and think of three reasons why so few people live there.

Factors affecting Population Density and Distribution

Causes of Sparse Population

Causes of Dense Population

  • Mountainous area e.g. Himalayas that are hard to build houses and transports links on.

  • Very hot or very cold area e.g. Sahara desert or Antarctica

  • A heavily forested area e.g. the Amazon Rainforest

  • Areas that flood a lot e.g. Mekong river delta

  • No jobs

  • Poor supply of electricity, gas and water

  • Poor communications

  • Shortage of natural resources

  • No schools or hospitals

  • Areas that regularly suffer from natural disasters e.g. volcanoes or droughts

  • Coastal areas that are good for fishing, trading etc.

  • A flat area of land that is easy to build on

  • Areas that are close to a good supply of water e.g. River Thames in London. Water is important for fishing, drinking, washing, etc.

  • Areas with good natural resources e.g. wood or good

  • Areas that are close to good fertile agricultural land

  • Areas with good developed transport links

  • Plenty of available jobs

  • Available electricity and water supply

  • Good communications e.g. internet and mobile phone network

  • Good quality schools and hospitals


Table 1: Factors affecting Population Density and Distribution (from greenfield geography)

Case Study: Population distribution in Switzerland

Population density of Switzerland 2014.png
Map 2: Population Density of Switzerland 2014

1) Name the three regions (Cantons) of Switzerland with the highest population densities. Give data to support your answer. (3 marks)

2) Name three Cantons with very low population densities. Give data to support your answer. (3 marks)

3) Describe the overall pattern of population density in Switzerland. Use named examples and data to support your answer. (5 marks)

4) Look at table 1 above. For one of the Cantons you named in question 2, use the table to explain why the population density is so low. (3 marks)

5) Using named examples, explain the pattern of population density shown in the map. (5 marks)

Swiss Population density map.png
Map 3: Distribution of population in Switzerland 2014.

6) For a country you have studied, describe and explain how physical factors influence the population distribution and density the county. (7 marks)

Human Population Density: Information from Wikipedia