The pattern of population distribution refers to how people are distributed across the earth’s surface. More than 90% of the world’s population lives on less than 10% of the planet’s land surface. The world’s population distribution is exceedingly unequal. In this blog, we will understand the factors affecting the distribution of population.

    Geographical Factors

    Topography: People always prefer to live on plains rather than mountains and plateaus because these areas are suitable for farming, manufacturing, and service activities. The Ganga plains are the most densely populated areas of the world while mountains like Andes, Alps, and the Himalayas are sparsely populated.

    Climate: Climate is one of the many factors affecting the distribution of population. People usually avoid extreme climates that are very hot or very cold like the Sahara desert, polar regions of Russia, Canada, and Antarctica.

    Soil: Fertile soils provide suitable land for agriculture. Fertile plains such as Ganga and Brahmaputra in India, Hwang-He, Chang Jiang in China and the Nile in Egypt are densely populated.

    Water: People prefer to live in areas where freshwater is easily available. The river valleys of the world are densely populated while deserts have spare population.

    Minerals: Areas with mineral deposits are more populated. Diamond mines of South Africa and the discovery of oil in the Middle East lead to the settling of people in these areas. Let us learn about other factors affecting the distribution of population.

    Social, Cultural, and Economic Factors

    Social: Areas of better housing, education, and health facilities are more densely populated e.g., Pune.

    Cultural: Places with religion or cultural significance attract people. Varanasi, Jerusalem, and Vatican city are some examples.

    Economic: Industrial areas provide employment opportunities. A large number of people are attracted to these areas. Osaka in Japan and Mumbai in India are two densely populated areas.


    Population change refers to a change in the number of people during a specific time. The world population has not been stable. It has increased manifold but why? This is actually due to changes in the number of births and deaths. For an extremely long period of human history, until the 1800s, the world’s population grew steadily but slowly.

    Large numbers of babies were born, but they died early too. This was as there were no proper health facilities. Sufficient food was not available for all the people. Farmers were not able to produce enough to meet the food requirements of all the people. As a result the total increase in population was very low.

    In 1820, the world’s population reached one billion. A hundred and fifty years later, in the early 1970s, the world’s population reached 3 billion. This is often called population explosion. In 1999, less than 30 years later, the population doubled to 6 billion. The main reason for this growth was that with better food supplies and medicine, deaths were reduced, while the number of births still remained fairly high.

    Births are usually measured using the birth rate i.e. the number of live births per 1,000 people. Deaths are usually measured using the death rate i.e. the number of deaths per 1,000 people. Migrations is the movement of people in and out of an area.

    Births and deaths are the natural causes of population change. The difference between the birth rate and the death rate of a country is called the natural growth rate. The population increase in the world is mainly due to the rapid increase in the natural growth rate. Migration is another way by which population size changes. People may move within a country or between countries. Emigrants are people who leave a country.

    Immigrants are those who arrive in a country. Countries like the United States of America and Australia have gained in numbers by in-migration or immigration. Sudan is an example of a country that has experienced a loss in population numbers due to out-migration or emigration.

    The general trend of international migrations is from the less developed nations to the more developed nations in search of better employment opportunities. Within countries, a large number of people may move from rural to urban areas in search of employment, education, and health facilities.

    Read More: Population Distribution: Population Density & Population Change Pattern

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