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Explaining Economic Geography
Population Distribution and Density

This section will look at the population distribution and density in more depth, identifying the factors that influence such patterns. We shall also draw on case studies to highlight the points that need to be made.

A consideration for the Physical and Human factors affecting population distribution and density

Demography is the study of population and it is important to remember that populations are dynamic and never static. Density, distribution, movements and structures change over time and this section will reveal the factors to why populations are dynamic.

What affects the distribution of population?

The distribution of population on a global, national and local scale is uneven. As a generic (general) rule, populations at a global scale are often affected by physical constraints and opportunities whilst at regional scales influences are more likely to be economic, political and social factors.

Geographically, the world consists of 30% land of which only a tenth is land without any serious threats to settlement and agriculture. Therefore, we know that population distribution is already constrained to certain areas of the world.

Patterns of density and distribution of population within an EMDC


Patterns of density and distribution within a ELDC


A consideration of patterns of density and distribution and the relevant causal factors among global population distributions.
Before approaching this subject it is important to acknowledge that population is hard to measure and analyse, as records are often incomplete of non-existent. Therefore, it is hard to state what the past population patterns were, what the present trends are now and what the future trends will be. It is important to understand that population isnt static; its dynamic and evolves in density, structure and size.

First, I shall look at population patterns in the past. Anthropology (the study of human evolution) identifies that humans evolved from the monkey-like Homo-Sapien in Eastern Africa. Therefore, history suggests that the first global distribution of humans were densely located of African countries.

The next key historical stage in which the global distribution of humans was affected was during the Industrial Revolution that saw Western Europe develop at an incredible rate. From 1650 onwards the population in Western Europe excelled at an almost exponential rate. This was as a result of key factors: Health improvement, fertility improvement, migration and families being able to sustain more children.

There is a general consensus that there is an inequality in global population distribution and density. This international inequality is between the developed and developing world and is a result of a number of factors. By analysing the population trends according to birth rate and death rate we can see why there is such an inequality between the countries. Indeed, in 1850 there were three times the population of whats now the developed world and it is predicted that from 1950 to 2010 the population will multiply by five times.

At this point we can distinguish two fundamental differences in birth and death rates between the two sets of countries. Generically, EMDCs have a smaller birth rate as opposed to ELDCs and people are living longer. Therefore, the replacement rate (term used to calculate how a population evolves using death rates over birth rates) is a lot less than the developing world. As mentioned this is as a result of a number of factors most of them cultural.

As we stand, we have reached (and surpassed) the 6 Billion mark in terms of global population. That was in 1998, 11 years after 5 Billion day in 1987. The 6 Billion are distributed according to table one. From this table we can see that Africa (871,800,000 or 14.2%) and Asia (3,548,100,000 or 58%) accommodate three quarters of the worlds population. This is a figure that firmly illustrates the distribution and density of the global population.

Contraception and fertility are big factors when discussing population densities in a global context. Contraception in many developing countries is virtually either non-existent, too costly or people are uneducated concerning the importance of contraception. In mostly African and South Asian Countries there are unmet contraceptive needs. Indeed, the UN signals that high birth rates are the consequence and not the cause of poverty and this explains the why a large density of the global population are found in ELDCs.

The Emancipation of women has led to many women following career pursuits instead of performing the role of a mother. The result is a reduction in the birth rate as women have the choice whether or not to go into motherhood.

Religion is another fundamental reason to high birth rates. In many catholic countries there is a disbelief in contraception and abortion and this obviously adds to birth rates. In addition, the fundamental religious places around the glob acts as a hub to respected followers. Places such as Mecca, Damascus and Tibet all draw their followers bulging the population distribution around the world.

Geographical aspects of differing areas worldwide give explanation to why there are certain areas that are dense in population. High-density areas such as South-East Asia and Latin America are so because they prove geographically functional to live there. Latin America and the large bays and deltas of Asia provide rich and fertile land in which to grow crops and to sustain large populations.

Culture (economic decision to bear children) is a key aspect into determining the acceptable (according to society) number of children to bear. In African countries there are usually families with greater child numbers compared to Latin American and Western counterparts. Whilst in EMDCs children are seen as an extended part of the family that are nice to have, but expensive to keep in ELDCs they can be viewed more so as a commodity or economic necessity. Much like the times during the industrial revolution, children in African families are a function designed to generate income and thus the more children leads to more income. This is also seen in Latin America and in the shanty towns of South America and Asia.

Nethertheless, over the last thirty years in China they have seen a reduction in the birth rate (from 2.1% to 1.7%) thanks largely to their domestic one child policy. The density of the population in this country was getting far too unsustainable and so the authorities decided to act and forcibly implement this policy in parallel with educating the domestic Chinese community.

Immigration and Refugees (and Migration) The most war torn countries are likely too be ELDCs. Where there is war there is always going to be a proceeding number of refugees that travel across the borders into nearby countries. Therefore, wars always see a great continental-scaled shift in populations as was illustrated in Rwanda in the mid-90s and is illustrated as Iraqi refugees flee for the borders of Syria.

The principle reason to why the West largely avoids vast refugee influxes is because border controls, not within their country but in ELDCs, remain very strict. Although national media may cause moral panic over immigration and asylum number, developed countries account for only 3% of the worlds refugees.

Health and Hygiene improvements across the globe have led to infant mortality decreasing and old age being prolonged. These two factors have swelled the global population, although the effects are felt more so in ELDCs as compared to EMDCs. This reason is because more children are surviving child death whilst pregnancy rates still remain the same. Additionally, the replacement rate has exponentially increased in developing countries in contrast to it declining in the more western of countries. In Japan they have the longest life expectancy compared to any other nation because of the health infrastructure and in Western Germany the replacement rate is in negative equity. In EMDCs, because there are a substantial amount of people living beyond the age of 60, these countries are facing an overburden on their services. Therefore, they have targeted the population to have more births and this is illustrated in UK whereby the government are encouraging births through births payouts.

We have therefore seen the differing factors in population influence between the developed and developing countries throughout the worlds. We have noticed that EMDC and ELDC population trends have been different in the last 30 years, with the EMDC birth rate reducing and the ELDC birth rate generally increasing. EMDC has a low population growth of 0.64% whilst the ELDC trajectories have been higher (at 2.07%). More specifically the trajectories are very high in East Asia, moderately high in Latin America, moderate in South Asia and limited in Sub-Saharan Africa. To illustrate this point more fully the average amount of children in EMDCs is less than two, in ELDCs in Asia it is around four or higher and in ELDCs in Africa it is 6 or higher.

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