Factors that Affects Population Distribution (2023)


It is, however, not to suggest that population distribution on the earth surface is determined by physical factors alone, for within the broad framework of physical attractions and constraints, cultural factors strongly influence the way mankind is distributed over the earth (Hornby and Jones, 1980:20). Thus, apart from physical factors, numerous social, demographic, economic, political and historical factors affect population distribution.

These factors operate not in isolation but in combination with each other. One cannot, therefore, isolate the influence of any one factor on population distribution. Further, the interplay between these determinants is generally very complex. The primary task of a population geographer, therefore, is to explain the irregularities in population distribution in terms of the influences of all these factors as an integral part of a dynamic process (Clarke, 1972:14).

1. Physical Factors:

Physical factors that affect population distribution include altitude and latitude, relief, climate, soils, vegetation, water and location of mineral and energy resources. It is important to note that most of the physical factors influence population distribution only indirectly through climatic conditions.


The influences of latitude and altitude on population distri­bution cannot be separated from one another. High altitude in general imposes an ultimate physiological limit upon human existence due to reduced atmospheric pressure and low oxygen content. Therefore, very few permanent settlements can be seen in the lofty mountains of the world at a height above 5,000 metres. Staszewski, in his exhaustive analysis of the vertical distribution of population, has shown that both numbers and densities in different parts of the world decline with increasing altitude.

According to him, a little more than 56 per cent of the world’s population lives within 200 metres from the sea level, and over 80 per cent within 500 metres. However, in low latitude areas, which are otherwise hot and less favourable, high altitude provides suitable conditions for human habitation. Mountains in Africa and Latin America are much healthier than plains, and large cities have sprung up at high altitude. La Paz, the highest city in the world (3,640 m) and the capital of Bolivia, owes its existence to this factor. As against this, in the high latitude areas, it becomes extremely difficult to live beyond a few hundred metres from sea level. It is in this context that a famous population geographer has referred to “mountains that attract and mountains that repel”.

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Relief features also play an important role in influencing population distribution. The influence of altitude has already been noted. Among the other aspects of relief features which affect human habitation are general topography, slope and aspect. The main concentrations of human population are confined to the areas marked with flat topography. Rugged and undulating topog­raphy restricts the condensation of human population in any area.

Abrupt changes in the density of population can be seen on the world map of population distribution where plains meet mountain ranges. Rising Himalayas, thus, mark the northern limit of dense population in the Ganga plain. Similarly, the Deccan plateaus with rugged and undulating topography appear distinct from the plains in respect of population concentration. In the mountainous areas valleys provide suitable locations for human settlements. Likewise, sun-facing slopes provide favourable locations for the emergence and growth of settlements.

This is particularly true in the temperate and other high latitude areas where insolation is very important. The river valleys may promote or restrict human settle­ments depending upon other geographic conditions. In Egypt, nearly 98 per cent of the population is concentrated forming a ribbon along the Nile River. As against this, in tropical swamps and dissected plateaus, river valleys tend to repel population.

Of all the geographic influences on population distribution, climatic conditions are perhaps the most important. Climate affects population distribution both directly as well as indirectly through its effects on soil, vegetation and agriculture that have direct bearings on the pattern of population distribution. Moreover, other physical factors like latitude and altitude also operate on population distribution through climatic conditions.

Although climatic optima are difficult to define, extremes of temperature, rainfall and humidity certainly limit the concentration of population in any part of the earth. In the Northern Hemisphere, extreme cold conditions in the high latitude areas have prevented human habitation. Likewise, extremely high temperature and aridity in the hot deserts of the world restrict human habitability. Some of the geographers in past have, therefore, gone to the extent of claiming a deterministic relationship between climate and population distribution.

It should, however, be noted that man has ability to adapt himself to different climatic conditions. This explains a high density in the tropics, which are otherwise marked with extremes of climatic conditions. Progress in science and technology has greatly augmented man’s ability to adapt to different climatic conditions. Though limited in magnitude, the peopling of the Alaska and Siberia during the last century owes to the scientific and technological advancements.

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The cases of Java and the Amazon basin also serve to refute deterministic stance of relationship between climate and population distribution. Though, both of them experience equatorial type of climate, they differ markedly from one another in terms of population density. While Java is one of the most densely parts of the world, the Amazon basin is marked with a very sparse population.

Similarly, the quality of soils exerts an undeniable influence on the distribution of world population. The fertile alluvial and deltaic soils can support dense populations. Thus, most of the major concentrations of populations in the world are located in the river valleys and deltas. Great civilizations of the world have almost invariably flourished on good fertile alluvial soils. Similarly, the chernozems of steppe grasslands and rich volcanic soils can support dense population.

On the other hand, the leached soils of temperate lands, the podsols, which are very poor in terms of fertility, can support only a sparse population. In Canada, for instance, marked difference can be noticed in population concen­tration between areas of clayey soils and podsol soils.

It is important to note that the influence of soils cannot be viewed in isolation, that is, soils influence population distribution in associ­ation with other physical factors, mainly climate. Moreover, progress in technology can alter the effectiveness of soil types on population concentration to a greater extent. Application of modern technologies during the recent times has greatly enhanced the profitability of cultivation in many areas of the world, which were hitherto not suitable for cultivation.


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Such areas have, thus, attracted population during the recent past. In association with climatic conditions, varying soil types give rise to variety of vegetation cover on the earth surface. These, in turn, provide contrasting environment for a variety of agricultural activities, and hence, lead to different population density. Tropical forests, savanna, tundra and taiga provide different media for human occupation and concentration.

Location of mineral and energy resources has led to dense population concentration in many parts of the world, which otherwise do not provide suitable conditions for human habitation. Large towns have grown up in inaccessible and extremely inhospitable areas such as deserts, Polar Regions or in the midst of forests where precious minerals and metals have been found.

Kalgoorlie, a gold mining town in the Australian deserts, is a very good example in this regard. Likewise, several other examples can be cited from elsewhere in the world including Canada, the USA and Russia. Location of coal, the most important fuel in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the main factor behind industrial conurbation and dense population concen­tration in Western Europe.

However, the influence of mineral and energy resources on population distribution depends upon a wide range of social and economic factors such as market demand, capital for development, availability of labour supply and trans­portation network. It is, therefore, important to note that the influences of all the physical factors outlined above operate through a series of economic, social and political factors in the area concerned.

2. Economic, Political and Historical Factors:

Population distribution and density in an area depends to a large extent on the type and scale of economic activities. Same geographic conditions provide different opportunities for people with different types and scale of economic activities. Technological and economic advancement can bring about significant changes in population distribution of an area. For instance, the Prairies of North America offered different opportunities for the Indians with their hunting economy, the nineteenth century ranchers, the later settled agriculturist and finally the modern industrialized and largely urbanized society.


Each stage in economic development was marked with profound changes in population density and distribution in the region. Industrialization and discovery of new sources of minerals and energy resources have, throughout human history, brought about redistribution of population through migration. In the pre-industrial agricultural societies, population distribution often fairly evenly distributed responds to the nature of crops grown and their relationship to physical conditions.

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The industrial revolution has resulted in considerable change in population distribution in many parts of the world. Dense population concentration has replaced long established pattern of dispersal and generally even distribution. Initially, sources of energy and mineral resources became the force of industrial growth and population concentration. Improved transport network, growing spatial mobility of labour and increasing trade in the wake of economic and technological advancements have led to decline in the importance of place bound industries.

Growing commercial activities, for instance, in the developing world, accompanied by improvements in transport network, have resulted in considerable redistribution of population and emergence of mega urban centres. It is aptly said that increasing complexity and diversification of economic activities, the world over, have led to a new pattern of population distribution.


During the more recent times, government policies and political factors have emerged as an important determinant of population patterns. With increasing state control over economic activities, government policies have led to a significant change in the patterns of population distribution in several parts of the world. In the erstwhile USSR, facilitated by advances in science and technology, population was directed to parts of Siberian plains, which were hitherto not suitable for human habitation. Likewise, in China, planned colonization of the interior, encouraged by the communist government, has resulted in signif­icant change in population patterns.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, some 10 to 15 million people in the country were forcibly relocated to the rural communes in order to ease pressure on urban employment. Examples of government inducements encouraging migration to new areas can be cited from several developed countries of the West as well. In addition to government policies, political events have also caused redistribution of population throughout human history.

Wars have forced a great number of people to migrate from one region to another all over the world. Post-partition redistribution between India and Pakistan, or displacement of several million Sudanese as a result of civil war, or expulsion of Asians from Uganda in the early 1970s are some of the instances of how political events can cause changes in population patterns.

Apart from the factors discussed above, historical processes should also be taken into account while explaining the patterns of population distribution. Duration of human settlements is an important determinant of the magnitude of population concen­tration in any area. Most of the densely populated areas of the world have a very long history of human habitation, while sparse population in certain areas can in part be explained in terms of its recent habitation.

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It should, however, not be concluded that the highest densities are always to be found in areas with the longest history of habitation. There are several instances of formerly prosperous and densely populated areas, which are now only sparsely populated. Parts of North Africa and Mesopotamia, the Yucatan peninsula and eastern Sri Lanka are some such examples. Based on this, some scholars have talked about cycle of occupation, whereby size and densities of population first increase and then decline only to be followed by another cycle of increase.


What are the 4 major factors that affect the population? ›

When demographers attempt to forecast changes in the size of a population, they typically focus on four main factors: fertility rates, mortality rates (life expectancy), the initial age profile of the population (whether it is relatively old or relatively young to begin with) and migration.

Which of the following are factors affecting population distribution? ›

There are several factors that affect the population distribution in India: Geographical Factors. Social Factors. Cultural Factors.

What are the 4 factors of distribution? ›

Thus, apart from physical factors, numerous social, demographic, economic, political and historical factors affect population distribution. These factors operate not in isolation but in combination with each other.

What are the factors affecting distribution of population Class 8? ›

Following factors affects the distribution of population: Topography of the place Climate of the place Social, cultural and economic factors Soil, minerals and availability of water
  • Topography of the place.
  • Climate of the place.
  • Social, cultural and economic factors.
  • Soil, minerals and availability of water.

What are the five factors that affect population? ›

Factors that affect population growth are:
  • Age of organisms at first reproduction.
  • How often an organism reproduces.
  • The number of offspring of an organism.
  • The presence or absence of parental care.
  • How long an organism is able to reproduce.
  • The death rate of offspring.
23 Mar 2020

What are the 6 factors that affect population size? ›

Factors influencing population growth
  • Economic development. ...
  • Education. ...
  • Quality of children. ...
  • Welfare payments/State pensions. ...
  • Social and cultural factors. ...
  • Availability of family planning. ...
  • Female labour market participation. ...
  • Death rates – Level of medical provision.
19 Nov 2020

What are the factors affecting the distribution of population Class 12? ›

The factors influencing the distribution and density of population are discussed below:
  • (i)Geographical Factors. (a)Availability of water: It is the most important factor for life. ...
  • (ii)Economic Factors. (a)Minerals: Areas with mineral deposits attract industries. ...
  • (iii)Social and Cultural Factors.

What is the distribution of population? ›

The way in which people are spread across a given area is known as population distribution. Geographers study population distribution patterns at different scales: local, regional, national, and global. Patterns of population distribution tend to be uneven.

How does cultural factors affect population distribution? ›

Cultural: Religion or cultural significance increases the population density of certain places. Due to this religious city like Varanasi, Jerusalem and Vatican City are densely populated. Economic: population distribution increases in areas which provide better economic opportunities.

Which factor does not affect the distribution of population? ›

Climate is not a social factor affecting the population distribution. Climate, topography and soil are geographical factors. Q. Which of the following is not a geographical factor affecting the population distribution?

What are factors affecting population distribution in Ethiopia? ›

The most important physical factors that affect the distribution of population in Ethiopia include climate, mainly rainfall and temperature, soil and vegetation, drainage and slope. . In Ethiopia most of these physical factors are influenced by altitude.

How do economic factors affect population distribution? ›

The availability of jobs and economic activities within a region leads to an increase in population density. Locations with an effective infrastructure, including transport, energy, water, and sanitation are usually densely populated.

What is population distribution class 8? ›

Distribution of Population refers to the way in which people are spread across the earth surface. The population distribution in the world is extremely uneven. Some areas are sparsely populated while others are densely populated, because of the various factors affecting the distribution of the population.

What are the three economic factors that influence the distribution of population? ›

Economic Factors: Educational institutions, employment opportunities, manufacturing industries, luxurious amenities, trade and commerce and other facilities encourage dense population in an area.

What are the factors affecting population change explain? ›

There are three factors that influence population change: birth rate, death rate, and migration.

What are 3 factors that can affect population size? ›

Population growth is determined by rates of birth, death, immigration, and emigration.

What is a major factor affecting population growth rate? ›

Factors affecting populations. Populations are affected by many factors, the main natural ones being birth rates and death rates which affect the level of natural change (increase or decrease) within the population.

What are the main causes of population? ›

Decrease in the death rate due to improved medical facilities with the birth rate remaining the same is one of the major causes of population growth in India. Illiteracy prevalent in major parts of India make people believe that 'children are god's blessings' hence making them against the concept of 'family planning'.

What are 5 effects of rapid population growth? ›

In the following pages we shall discuss seven adverse consequences of high fertility and rapid population growth: (1) effects of large families on child development, (2) educational problems, (3) lags in new technology, (4) increased inequities in agriculture, (5) unemployment and underemployment, (6) urbanization and ...

What two factors decrease population? ›

The two factors that decrease the size of a population are mortality, which is the number of individual deaths in a population over a period of time, and emigration, which is the migration of an individual from a place.

What are the factors which affect the population distribution in India? ›

Solution : Physical, socio-economic and historical factors influence population distribution in India. Climate along with terrain and availability of water largely determines the pattern of the population distribution.

What are the 3 types of population distribution? ›

A population can also be described in terms of the distribution, or dispersion, of the individuals that make it up. Individuals may be distributed in a uniform, random, or clumped pattern.

How do political factors affect population distribution? ›

2 Political unrest and discrimination are detrimental to population growth. Clashes between different political parties or people with different religious beliefs have often resulted in a reduction of population in the affected area.

What are some facts about distribution of population? ›

The world's population is growing by 1.10 percent per year, or approximately an additional 83 million people annually. The global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. 50.4 percent of the world's population is male and 49.6 percent is female.

How do population affects the society? ›

More people means an increased demand for food, water, housing, energy, healthcare, transportation, and more. And all that consumption contributes to ecological degradation, increased conflicts, and a higher risk of large-scale disasters like pandemics.

What are the advantages and disadvantages factors affecting population? ›

A list of advantageous factors affecting population distribution is as follows:
  • Availability of sufficient sunlight, clean air and water.
  • Region with low altitude.
  • Moderate rainfall and temperature.
  • Fertile soil.
  • Deposits of minerals.
  • Industrialisation.
  • Urbanisation.
  • Availability of transportation facilities.
14 Nov 2021

What are social factors factors? ›

Socially factors are things that affect someone's lifestyle. These could include wealth, religion, buying habits, education level, family size and structure and population density. What may be acceptable in one country, could be a possible no-no somewhere else.

Which is a major factor affecting population growth rate? ›

Factors affecting populations. Populations are affected by many factors, the main natural ones being birth rates and death rates which affect the level of natural change (increase or decrease) within the population.

What are 5 effects of rapid population growth? ›

In the following pages we shall discuss seven adverse consequences of high fertility and rapid population growth: (1) effects of large families on child development, (2) educational problems, (3) lags in new technology, (4) increased inequities in agriculture, (5) unemployment and underemployment, (6) urbanization and ...

What 2 Things decrease a population? ›

The two factors that decrease the size of a population are mortality, which is the number of individual deaths in a population over a period of time, and emigration, which is the migration of an individual from a place.

What are the effects of population growth? ›

Human population growth impacts the Earth system in a variety of ways, including: Increasing the extraction of resources from the environment. These resources include fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal), minerals, trees, water, and wildlife, especially in the oceans.

What are the three factors affecting population? ›

There are three factors that influence population change: birth rate, death rate, and migration. Though one or two of these factors can influence a population in a particular area, all three impact population change.

Which are the three main factors that cause population change? ›

The three main causes of population change

Births - usually measured using the birth rate (number of live births per 1,000 of the population per year). Deaths - usually measured using the death rate (number of deaths per 1,000 of the population per year). Migration - the movement of people in and out of an area.

What are the main causes of population? ›

The Causes of Overpopulation
  • Falling Mortality Rate. The primary (and perhaps most obvious) cause of population growth is an imbalance between births and deaths. ...
  • Underutilized Contraception. ...
  • Lack of Female Education. ...
  • Ecological Degradation. ...
  • Increased Conflicts. ...
  • Higher Risk of Disasters and Pandemics.
25 Jun 2020

How does population affect the society? ›

Growing population brings changes in social values and beliefs, cultural behavior, traditions and customs of the society. It also affects the marriage patterns, festival, dresses, ornaments and thinking of the people. It attempts to bring in the western way of life which means deterioration of our culture.

How does population affect the economy? ›

Rapid population growth makes it more difficult for low-income and lower-middle-income countries to afford the increase in public expenditures on a per capita basis that is needed to eradicate poverty, end hunger and malnutrition, and ensure universal access to health care, education and other essential services.

How does economy affect population growth? ›

Higher incomes increase the cost of having children and tend to reduce the number of children people want and thus to slow population growth.

What causes population decline? ›

Causes of population decline

The size and demographics of the population change when: fewer children are born; families with children move to larger towns and cities; young and better-educated people move to larger towns and cities.

What are two social factors that affect population growth? ›

The two main factors affecting population growth are the birth rate (b) and death rate (d). Population growth may also be affected by people coming into the population from somewhere else (immigration, i) or leaving the population for another area (emigration, e).

What are population limiting factors? ›

A limiting factor is anything that constrains a population's size and slows or stops it from growing. Some examples of limiting factors are biotic, like food, mates, and competition with other organisms for resources.

How does the population affect the environment? ›

The impact of so many humans on the environment takes two major forms: consumption of resources such as land, food, water, air, fossil fuels and minerals. waste products as a result of consumption such as air and water pollutants, toxic materials and greenhouse gases.

What are the problems of population? ›

Every day we add 227,000 more people to the planet — and the UN predicts human population will surpass 11 billion by the end of the century. As the world's population grows, so do its demands for water, land, trees and fossil fuels — all of which come at a steep price for already endangered plants and animals.

What are the effects of overpopulation on the environment? ›

Consequences number, on the one hand, deforestation and desertification, extinction of animal and plant species and changes in the water cycle and the most direct consequence of all in the form of emissions of large quantities of greenhouse gases leading to global warming.


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