Discuss the factors that influence population distribution in the world. (15 marks)

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  • Define population distribution.
  • Explain the factors that affect population distribution.
  • Conclude.


Patterns of population distribution and density help us to understand the demographic characteristics of any area. The term population distribution refers to the way people are spaced over the earth’s surface. Broadly, 90 per cent of the world population lives in about 10 per cent of its land area.

Factors Influencing the Distribution of Population

1. Geographical Factors

Availability of water: It is the most important factor for life. So, people prefer to live in areas where fresh water is easily available. Water is used for drinking, bathing and cooking – and also for cattle, crops, industries and navigation. It is because of this that river valleys are among the most densely populated areas of the world.

Landforms: People prefer living on flat plains and gentle slopes. This is because such areas are favourable for the production of crops and to build roads and industries. The mountainous and hilly areas hinder the development of transport network and hence initially do not favour agricultural and industrial development.

So, these areas tend to be less populated. The Ganga plains are among the most densely populated areas of the world while the mountains zones in the Himalayas are scarcely populated.

Climate: An extreme climate such as very hot or cold deserts are uncomfortable for human habitation. Areas with a comfortable climate, where there is not much seasonal variation attract more people. Areas with very heavy rainfall or extreme and harsh climates have low population. Mediterranean regions were inhabited from early periods in history due to their pleasant climate.

Soils: Fertile soils are important for agricultural and allied activities. Therefore, areas which have fertile loamy soils have more people living on them as these can support intensive agriculture. Can you name some areas in India which are thinly populated due to poor soils?

2. Economic Factors

Minerals: Areas with mineral deposits attract industries. Mining and industrial activities generate employment. So, skilled and semi–skilled workers move to these areas and make them densely populated. Katanga Zambia copper belt in Africa is one such good example.

Urbanisation: Cities offer better employment opportunities, educational and medical facilities, better means of transport and communication. Good civic amenities and the attraction of city life draw people to the cities. It leads to rural to urban migration and cities grow in size. Mega cities of the world continue to attract large number of migrants every year.

Industrialisation: Industrial belts provide job opportunities and attract large numbers of people. These include not just factory workers but also transport operators, shopkeepers, bank employees, doctors, teachers and other service providers. The Kobe-Osaka region of Japan is thickly populated because of the presence of a number of industries.

3. Social and Cultural Factors

Some places attract more people because they have religious or cultural significance. In the same way – people tend to move away from places where there is social and political unrest. Many a times governments offer incentives to people to live in sparsely populated areas or move away from overcrowded places.