Where the People Live

If you’ve ever been curious about how the world’s population is distributed, but the raw numbers kind of bounce off your head, then perhaps a visual representation will bring home where the people are.

A new project called ThePudding lets you look at a global map, all at once or up close, and see needles whose height and number represent the population in any particular area. For instance, if you look at tiny Bangladesh, and see the huge number of tall needles all over the country, you can see how it could have a larger population than Russia (which, as the map shows, has far fewer high-density population areas). You can see enormous population centers emerging in southern China, much MUCH lower population concentrations in Europe, Africa, North and South America—and how the area west of the Mississippi before you get to the U.S. West Coast is practically unpopulated.

You can go to the site and zoom in and zoom out, looking for the county you grew up in, and see the population change between 1990 and today. (Orange bars represent declines, green ones represent growth.) You can see that certain cities, like Cincinnati, OH and St. Louis, MO—and areas (like most of Russia)—are in serious population decline.

Why is this important? Growth in a country’s GDP is a function of population growth and increases in worker productivity. The countries with more people will inevitably take their place among the largest economies in the world. But even if you aren’t looking at the map in purely economic terms, the data is well presented and really interesting.

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