Population density

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Population density (1994)
Population density by country (2006)

The population density (including population density called) is a measure that the average number of residents per unit area for a given area ( country , region , district indicates), usually in people per km² measured. It is calculated by dividing the population of the area by the area of ​​the area. The equivalent in the animal world is the population density .

A slightly modified concept of population density is settlement density . It describes the number of inhabitants per square kilometer of settlement and traffic area.

The reciprocal of the population density is the areal figure . It describes the area that is available to each inhabitant on average.

Population densities in geographical units


The country with the

  • highest population density ( city-state ): Monaco 18,229 inhabitants / km² (December 31, 2013)
  • highest population density ( area state ): Bangladesh 1,116 inhabitants / km²
  • lowest population density (region): Nunavut 0.02 inhabitants / km² (October 2014)
  • lowest population density (area state): Mongolia 2.0 inhabitants / km² (July 2014, estimate)

For comparison: Germany 233 inhabitants / km² (July 19, 2020), Austria 101 inhabitants / km² (January 1, 2015), Switzerland 199 inhabitants / km² (September 30, 2014), Belgium 364 inhabitants / km² (January 1, 2013) . By far the most sparsely populated continent is Antarctica with 0.0001 to 0.0003 inhabitants / km².


Kowloon Walled City , Hong Kong (1989)

The population density varies greatly within the area of ​​a country. The highest population densities are found in cities , and often you can find many times higher population densities in individual city districts. For example, Macau (today the Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China ) already has a very high density of 19,851 inhabitants / km² (December 31, 2017, estimate). The Santo António district within Macau, however, has a much higher one: here there are almost 124,727 inhabitants per square kilometer.

The Kowloon Walled City on the Kowloon Peninsula, a district in Hong Kong that was demolished in 1993, has probably the highest population density ever achieved in the world . About 33,000 people lived here on just 0.026 km², which corresponds to a world record population density of 1,300,000 inhabitants / km². That is only 0.8 m² per inhabitant . In Europe, Paris has a very high population density with 21,289 inhabitants / km² (January 1, 2012); the 11th arrondissement (Popincourt) has the highest density of Paris with 42,236 inhabitants / km² (January 1, 2012). The most densely populated district in Europe is located in the Spanish city of L'Hospitalet de Llobregat , where around 77,000 people live in one square kilometer in the Florida district.

The most densely populated city in North America is Guttenberg in the US state of New Jersey with 22,352 inhabitants / km² (2010). The urban area on the Hudson River across from Manhattan comprises only a narrow strip of waterfront, on which about 11,000 people live.

In general, the information on the population density of cities and municipalities is not very meaningful with regard to the actual settlement density , i. H. how close people live together. The population density only becomes statistically interesting at the district level. Outside of urban agglomerations there are also cities that, for historical reasons, have a relatively small district (with little agricultural area) and consequently have a higher statistical population density - and others with large lands and forests with a correspondingly lower population density. The apartment occupancy, i.e. the number of people per apartment unit, also has an influence on the population density. Cities with many single households tend to have a lower population density. Densely built-up residential areas without large uninhabited areas with narrow borders easily reach values ​​of over 10,000 inhabitants per km².


The IOER Monitor map shows the relatively uneven population density in Germany for 2011.

The statistically most densely populated city in Germany is Munich with 4,686 inhabitants per square kilometer, followed by Berlin with 4,052 inhabitants per km², Stuttgart with 3,052 inhabitants per km² and Herne in the Ruhr area with 3,043 inhabitants per km². Hamburg, as the second largest city in Germany, has only 2,430 inhabitants per km², but has large water, commercial and port areas and urban districts in the urban area.

Munich owes its top position to the very narrow city ​​limits ; Due to the port and larger rural areas, Hamburg has large areas on which very few people live, which lowers the average population density.

The Munich district Schwabing-West has a population density of 15,646, the Berlin district Friedenau 16,785, the Friedrichstadt district in Düsseldorf has 19,984 (as of December 2016) and the Hamburg district Eimsbüttel has 17,982 inhabitants / km². Probably by far the most densely populated district in Germany is the Westend in Wiesbaden , which - purely arithmetically - has more than 27,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. In reality, only 18,161 people live there on an area of ​​0.67 km².

The most densely populated district in Germany with 1,192 inhabitants / km² is the Mettmann district east of Düsseldorf , followed by the Hessian Main-Taunus district between Wiesbaden and Frankfurt am Main with 1,066 inhabitants / km². In third place is the Offenbach district, also in Hesse, with 987 inhabitants / km². The most sparsely populated districts in Germany are the districts of Prignitz (36 inhabitants / km²), the Altmarkkreis Salzwedel (37 inhabitants / km²) and the districts of Ostprignitz-Ruppin and Uckermark with 39 inhabitants / km² each.

The most sparsely populated municipality in Germany is Wiedenborstel in Schleswig-Holstein , with 11 inhabitants on 4.52 km². The population density is therefore 2.4 inhabitants / km². This community consists of one estate, embedded in a forest area.

The most densely populated area in Germany is North Rhine-Westphalia (525 inhabitants / km²), followed by Saarland (387 inhabitants / km²) Baden-Württemberg (308 inhabitants / km²) and Hesse (296 inhabitants / km²). The most sparsely populated is Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (69 inhabitants / km²).

The grid-based representation of population density published by the Monitor of Settlement and Open Space Development (IOER Monitor) shows, like the map of population density on a district basis, a clear east-west divide with regard to the settlement structure. This gap is primarily the result of the increased settlement in West Germany after the end of the Second World War and the emigration from the East German federal states after reunification. While the population density map can only be condensed down to the district level, the grid map based on the 2011 census (Destatis) allows for a more precise localization of population concentrations and the identification of further spatial patterns. A representation of the new "bacon belt" around Berlin, for example, is possible in much more detail using the grid representation.


Population density in Austria by federal states

The five major Austrian cities (more than 100,000 inhabitants) are ranked according to population density (people / km²) as follows, with secondary residences included:

  1. Vienna : 4553 inh / km² (1,888,776 inh. ÷ 414.87 km²)
  2. Salzburg : 2337 inh / km² (153,377 inh. ÷ 65.64 km²)
  3. Graz : 2246 inh / km² (286,292 inh. ÷ 127.48 km²)
  4. Linz : 2134 inh / km² (204,846 inh. ÷ 95.99 km²)
  5. Innsbruck : 1264 inh / km² (132,493 inh. ÷ 104.81 km²)

The most densely populated district of Vienna is Margareten , where 55,640 people live on 2.03 square kilometers - that is 27,409 per km². In second place is Josefstadt , which with 23,543 inhabitants per square kilometer also reaches a value of over 20,000.


Population density in Switzerland by cantons

The six major Swiss cities are ranked according to population density as follows:

  1. Geneva : 12,621 inhabitants / km²
  2. Basel : 7,539 inhabitants / km²
  3. Zurich : 4,454 inhabitants / km²
  4. Lausanne : 3,358 inhabitants / km²
  5. Bern : 2,761 inhabitants / km²
  6. Winterthur : 1,630 inhabitants / km²

The Matthäus district in Basel has the largest population density in the city with 26,900 inhabitants per square kilometer. The urban district in Zurich with the highest population density is Aussersihl (District 4) with 9,519 inhabitants per square kilometer.


The Colombian island of Santa Cruz del Islote , which is only 1.2 hectares in size, has a calculated population density of around 100,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. Of the large islands on earth, the Indonesian Java has the highest population density with over 1000 inhabitants per km².

World map and expressiveness


Population density on earth 2005
Copy of this map "freely movable" in large format (1.1 MB) with a legend that is visible at the same time

The informative value of the population density value is often considered to be low, since it represents an average figure for an arbitrarily determined area. It does not provide any information about the different population densities due to geographical features, such as B. uninhabitable areas. For countries with a high proportion of deserts or mountains, such as Egypt , Saudi Arabia or the People's Republic of China and Mongolia , the number can therefore be misleading when compared to other countries. In this case, more precise would be the population density , which only refers to the theoretically or actually populated area.

This restriction also applies to cities: The population density of a city or municipality related to the district area depends very much on how large the proportion of unpopulated areas is: Large forest and arable areas in the area of ​​the district reduce the average population density; the residents of the city districts can live quite densely packed.

An extreme example is the Swedish municipality of Kiruna (see point on the world map). 23,129 inhabitants live here on 19,371 km². That corresponds to 1.2 inhabitants per km². However, 18,154 inhabitants live in the eponymous capital of the municipality in an area of ​​only 15.92 km² (1,140 inhabitants per km²). 78.5% of the residents are concentrated on just 0.08% of the area. Accordingly, the average population density on the area outside the city is only 0.26 inhabitants per km².

Most world maps of population density are based on statistical information for country-specific units of area. These can be very small areas such as the districts and cities of Germany or very large ones such as entire states (see map in the introduction). The larger these units are and the more different the size compared to other countries, the more the map image is falsified. Although the map shown - which is based on data from the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University New York - shows close-knit values ​​of relatively small areas for many countries , there are also large areas with only one area due to the lack of detailed data Average value (e.g. Serbia).

One possibility for better comparability is the small-scale consideration of the population in grid cells of a standardized grid, for example according to the INSPIRE specification. Administrative boundaries no longer play a role here.

See also

Portal: Geography  - Overview of Wikipedia content on geography

Web links

Commons : Population Density Maps  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: population density  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations



  • Paul Hasenöhrl: Map population density in Austria. PS Thematic cartography 4th program ( unet.univie.ac.at PDF) - with a discussion of the expressiveness of a color visualization

Individual evidence

  1. All figures in the “Countries” section are taken from the linked Wikipedia articles, accessed on March 18, 2015
  2. Calculation based on the population in: Government of Macao Special Administrative Region Statistics and Census Service: Population estimate December 31, 2017 : 137,200, and the area data in Macau Cartography and Cadastre Bureau, Area of ​​parishes 2018, Santo António : 1.1 km² , accessed on March 14, 2019
  3. ^ Charles Goddard: The Clearance . In: City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City , pp. 208-211.
  4. All figures without their own individual reference come from the linked Wikipedia articles, accessed on March 18, 2015
  5. duesseldorf.de statistics on Duesseldorf.de-Friedrichstadt district
  6. muenchen.de
  7. Geographical information on the state of North Rhine-Westphalia ( Memento from October 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Central Statistical Information Service NRW. Retrieved September 14, 2016; Population in NRW ( Memento from October 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Central Statistical Information Service NRW. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  8. Population density in Saarland Website of Saarland. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  9. Map of the IOER monitor on population density ( memento of the original from October 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. IOER monitor. Retrieved September 14, 2016. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.ioer-monitor.de
  10. Map of the IOER monitor on population density ( memento of the original from October 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. IOER monitor. Retrieved September 14, 2016. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.ioer-monitor.de