Sub-branches of Human Geography

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Human geography focuses on the role that human play in the world and the effects that human activities have on the Earth.  

Human geography focuses on understand processes about human populations, settlements, economics, transportation, recreation and tourism, religion, politics, social and cultural traditions, human migration, agriculture, and urbanization.

Related: What is the AP Human Geography Exam?

Cultural Geography

Cultural geography studies the relationship between different cultures and place. Geographers will look at how cultures are distributed over space and how different cultures express their practices on the Earth’s landscape.

Salt basins carved by the Native Americans of the Miwok tribe in the northern Sierra Nevada, California.  The basins were used to evaporate water obtained from nearby salt springs in order to harvest the salts for trade.  Image: Tyler Childress, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.
Salt basins carved by the Native Americans of the Miwok tribe in the northern Sierra Nevada, California. The basins were used to evaporate water obtained from nearby salt springs in order to harvest the salts for trade. Image: Tyler Childress, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.

Development Geography

Development geography studies the quality of life and standards of living within different communities around the world. As geographers seek to understand spatial patterns in development, they will look at economic, political and social factors that affect standards of living.

Birth rate, death rate, and fertility rates within a community are some of the demographic metrics that geographers use when assessing the development rates of different regions.

Development geographers are particularly focused on understanding inequality across time and space.

San Francisco de Quito or Quito for short, is the second most populous city (after Guayaquil) in Ecuador.  Quito is also one of the highest capitals in South America. Image: CIA Factbook, public domain.
San Francisco de Quito or Quito for short, is the second most populous city (after Guayaquil) in Ecuador. Quito is also one of the highest capitals in South America. Image: CIA Factbook, public domain.

Economic Geography

Geographers under this branch normally study the manner in which products are usually produced and consequently distributed in their respective niche markets.

In addition to this, they also study the way in which wealth is distributed in various regions over the planet. In general, the structures which control and influence the conditions of the economy are usually dissected microscopically here.

A market in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.  Photo: CIA Factbook.
A market in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Photo: CIA Factbook.

Health Geography

Healthy geography looks at the distribution and access to healthcare as well as the overall health of populations.

Health Map was developed by team of researchers, epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children's Hospital to monitor disease outbreaks and real-time surveillance of emerging public health threats using informal sources.
Health Map was developed by team of researchers, epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children’s Hospital to monitor disease outbreaks and real-time surveillance of emerging public health threats using informal sources.

Historical Geography

Historical geography looks at how a place and the people that live there have changed over time.

Population Geography

In most cases, scholars usually equate population geography to demography even though this is usually not the case. This is mainly owing to the reason that population geography is deeper than the study of the patterns of a group of people with regards to birth, marriage & death as is the case with demography.

Geographers who are involved in this discipline normally study the population of regions in much more detail.

This means that they normally look at the manner in which the population of a given area is distributed, how the people there migrate, and the rate as well as pattern of the population growth.

Population density of the United States, 2015.  NASA Earth Observatory map by Joshua Stevens, using data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data Applications Center
Population density of the United States, 2015. NASA Earth Observatory map by Joshua Stevens, using data from the  NASA Socioeconomic Data Applications Center

Medical Geography

In this branch, geographers normally study the patterns in which particular diseases spread. This means that pandemics & epidemics are usually studied here as well as common illnesses, general health care and death as well.

Map showing confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the United States, 2018.  Map: CDC
Map showing confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the United States, 2018. Map: CDC

Military Geography 

Geographers who practice this discipline normally conduct their research and studies within the military fraternity.

They mainly study the manner in which military facilities are distributed as well as the best ways in which the troops can be able to utilize the facilities that they have at their disposal.

In addition to this, the branch also covers the techniques that can be implemented in developing solutions to the common problems that military units commonly face.

Map of a small arms range on Fort Hood, Texas; Prepared by 2LT Merritt
Map of a small arms range on Fort Hood, Texas; Prepared by 2LT Merritt

Political Geography 

This is a very interesting branch of geography that is involved in the investigation of every aspect of politics. This is with regards to the boundaries of a country, the states it has and the development strategies that it has in place.

In addition, there are other details which are also covered such as: voting, sub-divisions, diplomacy and international organizations.

Transportation Geography 

Geographers who are involved in this branch of geography are usually involved in the research of the available networks for transportation. This includes both the public ones as well as private ones. Once the networks have been studied, ways in which to maximize their use in the movement of people and products can be explored.

Settlement Geography

Settlement geography, which includes urban geography, is the study over time and space of areas where humans have or currently reside.

A view of a suburban subdivision being developed in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Image: USGS, public domain.
A view of a suburban subdivision being developed in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Image: USGS, public domain.

Urban Geography 

With the development of urban cities worldwide, the branch of urban geography came into play since it enables researchers to study these trends much more effectively. In addition to this, these geographers are able to investigate potential locations that are suitable fore development for the tiniest of villages to sprout into the desired huge cities.

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