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Demography and Geopolitics

Henry Kissinger on the prospects for a US India Partnership

The Most Populous countries in the world (2005)

The most densely populated countries in the world (2005)


Despite the dire predictions of Paul Ehrlich in the 60's , it is some of  the most densely populated countries that are doing well economically. India is feeding her vast population which is 3 times what it was at independence ...Every statistic of human development is up from the dismal levels they were in during the colonial era. In economic terms India is the 4th largest economy in PPP terms and is one of  the fastest growing economies in the world. One other point to make is the prevalence of Famine during much of the era under British colonial rule as is documented in the book by  Mike Davis titled the Late Victorian Holocausts .. There has not been famine in India since 1947 ,when the country became independent.

Population Density

Arithmetic [or Crude] Density

Geographers most frequently use arithmetic or crude density, which is the total number of people divided by total land area. (This measure is also called population density.) Geographers rely on the arithmetic density to compare conditions in different countries because two pieces of information needed to calculate the measure—total population and total land—are easy to obtain.
For Example, to complete the arithmetic or population density for the United States, we can divide the population (approximately 290 million people) by the land area (approximately 9.0 million square kilometers, or 3.0 million square miles). The result shows that the Untied States has an arithmetic density of 30 person per square kilometer (78 person per square mile). By comparison, the arithmetic density is much high in South Asia. In Bangladesh, it is approximately 1,020 persons per square kilometer (2,640 person per square mile) and 325 (480) in India. On the other hand, the arithmetic density is only 3 person per square kilometer (8 person per square mile) in Canada and 3 (7) in Australia. Arithmetic density varies even more within individual countries. In the United States, for example, New York County (Manhattan Island) has a population density of approximately 26,000 persons per square kilometer (67,000 persons per square mile), whereas as Loving County, Texas, has a population density of approximately .04 persons per square kilometer (0.1 per square mile). In Egypt the arithmetic density is only 70 persons per square kilometer (185 persons per square mile) overall, but is 3,500 persons per square kilometer (9,000 persons per square mile) in the delta and valley of the Nile River. Arithmetic density enables geographers to compare the number of people trying to live on a given piece of land in different regions of the world. Thus, arithmetic density answers the “where” question. However, to explain why people are not uniformly distributed across Earth’s surface, other density measures are more useful.

Physiological [or Nutritional] Density

A more meaning population measure is afforded by looking at the number of people per area of a certain type of land in a region. Land suited for agriculture is called arable land. In a region, the number of people supported by a unit area of arable land is called the physiological density. For example, in the United States the physiological density is 156 persons per square kilometer (404 per square mile) or arable land. This contrasts sharply with Egypt, which has 3,503 person per square mile (9,073 per square mile) of arable land. This large difference in physiological densities demonstrates that crops grown on a hectare of land in Egypt must feed far more people than the United States. The high the physiological density, the greater the pressure that people may place on the land to produce enough food. Physiological density provides insights into the relationship between the size of the population and the availability of resources in a region.


?Comparing physiological and arithmetic densities helps geographers to understand the  capacity of the land to yield enough food for the needs of people. In Egypt, for example, the large difference between the physiological density (3,503 people per square kilometer of arable land) and arithmetic density (70 persons per square kilometer over the entire country) indicates that most of the country’s land is unsuitable for intensive agriculture. In fact, all but 5 percent of the Egyptian people live in the Nile River valley and delta, because it is the only area in the country that receives enough moisture (by irrigation
from the river) to allow intensive cultivate of crops. Measures of Density in Selected Countries as Population Per Square Mile



Arithmetic Density

 Physiological Density

 Agricultural Density

Percent Farmers

 Percent Arable







United States































 398 1











Agricultural Density

Two countries can have similar physiological densities, but they may produce significantly different amounts of food because of different economic conditions. Agricultural density is the ratio of the number of farmers to the amount of arable land. This density measure helps account for economic differences. For example, the United States has an extremely low agricultural density (4 farmers per square kilometer of arable land), whereas Egypt has a very high density (1,401 farmers per square kilometer or arable land). MDCs have lower agricultural densities because technology and finance allow a few people to farm extensive land areas and fee many people. This frees most of the MDC population to work in factories, offices, or shops rather than the fields. To understand the relationship between population and resources in a country, geographers examine its physiological and agricultural densities together. As the table shows, the physiological densities of both Bangladesh and the Netherlands are high, but the Dutch have a much lower agricultural density than the Bangladeshi. Geographers conclude that both the Dutch and Bangladeshi put heavy pressure on the land to produce food, but the more efficient Dutch agriculture system requires many fewer farmers than does the Bangladeshi system. Similarly, the Netherlands has a much high physiological density than does India but a much lower agricultural density. This difference demonstrates that, compared with India, the Dutch have extremely limited arable land to meet the needs of their population. …However, the highly efficient Dutch farmers can generate a large food supply from a limited resource.
Source: Rubenstein, James M. (2005) An introduction to Human Geography (Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson-Prentice Hall). p.51-53 [with minor changes]



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