MapMaker: Population Density

MapMaker: Population Density

What are the most densely populated places in the world? Find out with MapMaker, National Geographic's classroom interactive mapping tool.


9 - 12+


Anthropology, Sociology, Biology, Health, Conservation, Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Human Geography, Physical Geography, Social Studies, Civics

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In the last century, the global population has increased by billions of people. And it is still growing. Job opportunities in large cities have caused an influx of people to these already packed locations. This has resulted in an increase in population density for these cities, which are now forced to expand in order to accommodate the growing population.

Population density is the average number of people per unit, usually miles or kilometers, of land area. Understanding and mapping population density is important. Experts can use this information to inform decisions around resource allocation, natural disaster relief, and new infrastructure projects. Infectious disease scientists use these maps to understand the spread of infectious disease, a topic that has become critical after the COVID-19 global pandemic.

While a useful tool for decision and policymakers, it is important to understand the limitations of population density. Population density is most effective in small-scale places—cities or neighborhoods—where people are evenly distributed. Whereas at a larger scale, such as the state, region, or province level, population density could vary widely as it includes a mix of urban, suburban, and rural places. All of these areas have a vastly different population density, but they are averaged together. This means urban areas could appear to have fewer people than they really do, while rural areas would seem to have more.

Use this map to explore the estimated global population density (people per square kilometer) in 2020. Where do people tend to live? Why might they choose those places? Do you live in a place with a high population density or a low one?

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

André Gabrielli, National Geographic Society
Expert Reviewer
Anita Palmer
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

June 20, 2024

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