World Population


The world’s population of 6.1 billion is dominated by Asia. Just two countries, China and India, are home to 38% of the world’s citizens. The United States, Japan, and the nations of Western Europe have far fewer people but generate dramatically more economic wealth. Population alone is no guarantor of economic power. In fact, wealth creation may actually be hindered by having extremely large populations or excessive growth in the current population. A healthy balance of people, land, and infrastructure appear to be the key success factors for a country.

Countries with extremely rapid population growth, such as in Africa or in the Middle East, risk swamping their social and political establishments with too many demands. Eventually, these masses of people are left with inadequate or no jobs, which can rapidly translate into serious political instability, terrorism, and even war. Controlled population growth seems to be a key requirement for sustainable economic advancement and political stability throughout the world.

Main Insights

  • The largest country in the world in terms of year 2000 population is China with 1.3 billion people, or 21% of the world total. To get an idea of just how many people that is, if you–literally–found a one-in-a-million man or woman in China, there would be roughly 650 just like him or her. The second largest country in the world is India with 1.0 billion (17% of the world total).
  • The United States is the third largest country in the world, with 283 million residents. The US currently has the largest economy and greatest military power in the world, despite having just 4.7% of the world’s population. By comparison, there are 4.5 times as many Chinese as Americans.
  • The fourth largest country in the world is Indonesia with 212 million individuals (3.5% of the world total) while Brazil is fifth with 170 million (2.8%). The remainder of the top ten are Russia (145 million, 2.4%), Pakistan (141 million, 2.3%), Bangladesh (137 million, 2.3%), Japan (127 million, 2.1%), and Nigeria (114 million, 1.9%).
  • The five largest countries account for half of the world’s population (49%). The ten largest account for 60%.

Other Observations

  • The most populous country in the Middle East is Egypt (68 million). The total population of Arab and North African Muslim countries (not including Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, or Afghan) is 235 million. This is thirty-nine times larger than the population of Israel (6 million). If one includes the populations of Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, the total population of these Muslim states is 468 million, or seventy-eight times larger than Israel’s population.
  • Looking at the Persian Gulf region, Iraq has approximately 23 million people compared to Kuwait’s 2 million and Saudi Arabia’s 20 million. More than 70 million citizens call Iran home, meaning that Iran has as many people as all the other Persian Gulf countries combined.
  • South Korea has a population of 48 million which is more than twice North Korea’s population of 22 million. In another world hot spot, India (1.0 billion) has seven times the population of Pakistan (141 million).
  • Brazil dominates Latin America in terms of population with 170 million citizens, or 49% of the South American continent’s total (346 million). The next largest country, Colombia, has 42 million people but is four times smaller than Brazil.
  • Although Africa has a large aggregate population–over 780 million and 13% of the world total–this is less than the population of India or China alone. Nigeria has the largest population in Africa with 114 million people.
  • The population of the European Union, with the recent Eastern European and Scandinavian additions, is approximately 377 million people. If Turkey joins the EU, that total will grow to 548 million. There are more British citizens than French, but only by 200,000 (England has 59.4 million citizens versus France’s 59.2). Larger than either of these two is Germany with 82 million residents. In terms of population, Italy is 97% as large as France.

Sources and Methodology

The source data for this cartogram was the report “Prospects: The 2000 Revision,” produced by the Population Division of the United Nations. The data are assessments for year-end 2000. Only countries with populations larger than 140,000 persons are shown to preserve the clarity of the map. Therefore, very small countries such as Andorra, Monaco, and the Vatican are not shown separately.