Mapping Worldwide Population Growth

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Mapping the movement of the world’s population shows us where people want to go, where they can go and what regions are seeing the most population growth. Understanding what people in the world are doing gives us insights to how humanity interacts with the world around them.

The world’s population has changed dramatically- there are more of us than ever before, and we’re living in much different places than our ancestors. In 1950 only 30% of the world lived in urban areas; now, over half the world’s population live in cities. A map was recently created by a a researcher named Duncan Smith (from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London) that tracks where and when population has grown in various places around the world.

These global urbanization patterns show us a lot about how the Earth’s population is changing. As more people have moved to cities, these urban areas have had to adapt to an increased number of people living quite close together compared to rural areas. Smith’s map shows a city’s population in 1950 as a dark blue, with concentric circles radiating out showing the city’s population in 1990, 2015, and a projection for 2030.


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The fastest growing region of the world is Asia, and projections show it has no signs of stopping growth anytime soon. India is the fastest growing nation, and New Delhi will gain another approximately 10 million residents in the next 15 years. New Delhi’s population will overtake that of Tokyo, which is expected to shrink by nearly 37 million people. Cities in China are still growing quickly, in particular the Pearl River Delta which holds the title of the world’s largest urban area in size and population.

Cities in Europe and North America will likely decline in overall population numbers. London was the third largest city in 1950, but by 2030 is expected to be 36th on the list. Much of the population decline in Western Europe occurred around World War II, and current refugee migrations are also influencing population growths and declines in cities around the world.

Charting the Earth’s population movement can give us insight into many different areas including socioeconomics, politics, areas of opportunity and economic stability and much more.

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