Monaco to Mongolia: population density and prosperity

The next big population bogeyman could well be 'overcrowding'. Should we worry?
Vincenzina Santoro | Feb 3 2010 | comment  



Singapore“Stop the World -- I Want to Get Off” was the title of a hit Broadway play some years ago. Today, getting people off the planet is what the United Nations population control crowd would like to do in order to “save” it. After the failed Copenhagen climate control confabulation last December, they will be refocusing their strategy and may target the presumed horrors of overpopulation in the form of large concentrations of people in any given place.

The constantly updating “population clock” of the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the U.S. population was over 308 million and world population not quite 6.8 billion as I write. To the population worriers, these numbers are far too many. Population nihilists conjure up horrendous stories of hordes of people living extremely closely together in dire poverty, clamoring for scarce resources. Fewer people equals less carbon footprints, they claim.

What about “overcrowding?” China’s coercive one-child policy to explicitly curb population is well known, but is China that densely populated? Not at all, when one looks at the relevant data. While the population of China at 1.3 billion is the highest of any country in the world, China ranks only 53rd out of 192 countries in terms of population density, as can be observed in data assembled by the CIA.

This begs the question: Which is the most densely populated country on earth? It happens to be Monaco – that wonderful principality bordering France on the Mediterranean. Monaco is by far the most densely populated country, with a population of only 32,140 but a population density of 41,971 per square mile. Singapore is the distant second, followed by Malta.

What is life like in Monaco? Certainly not what the population doomsayers would predict. The tiny country has one of the highest standards of living, quality of life and personal wealth anywhere on earth. Per capita income is the 20th highest in the world, according to the World Bank. Monaco’s population density is 2.5 times that of next ranking Singapore, which is also among the most prosperous countries, and life in Malta is equally pleasant.

The least densely populated country is Mongolia, sandwiched between China and Russia, which has a density of only five persons per square mile and a total population of 2.8 million. A mountainous and cold country, it too has a vast territory, though much smaller than its two mega-neighbors, and its partly nomadic people rank among the world’s poorest in per capita income.

Of the five most populous countries – China, India, USA, Indonesia, and Russia – India, China, and Indonesia rank 18th, 53rd, and 60th in population density, respectively. India and China each have a population exceeding one billion, but they are not nearly as crowded as other places. The USA with a fertility rate that currently is at the replacement level of 2.1, ranks number 142 on the list, while Russia, the world’s largest country in land area, with an extremely low fertility rate of 1.4 and a population already in decline, ranks as low as 177.

Although Africa is often the target of the population monitors, data do not corroborate their concerns. The United Nations population counters let it be known recently that Africa’s population had just reached the one billion mark. Even so, Africa accounts for only 15 per cent of global population, compared with 60 per cent for Asia. Among the 50 least densely populated countries, 19 are African. Of the 50 most densely populated countries only two are on the African continent: Rwanda and Burundi, and four are small island nations – São Tomé and Principe (in the Gulf of Guinea) and Mauritius, the Comoros and the Seychelles (in the Indian Ocean) which are considered part of Africa.

At a conference in New York on January 22nd, a highly acclaimed demographer who formerly headed the Population Division at the United Nations asked the hypothetical question: What would happen if all the 6.8 billion people currently on earth were to move to the United States? His answer was that the U.S. population density would become the same as that of the Netherlands! Moreover, New York, the most populous city in the United States with a population of 8.5 million has a population density of 26, 403 per square mile – less than that of Monaco.

And a final word about Monaco. Land-wise, all of Monaco can fit comfortably into the 1.32 square miles of New York City’s Central Park.

So, when we hear the cry that there are “too many people” here or there, we should ask, “Too many people for what?” It is all relative to the culture and the economy of the place. Those are the things we should be working to change, if necessary, not the number of people.

Vincenzina Santoro is an international economist in New York City. She represents the American Family Association of New York at the United Nations.



This article is published by Vincenzina Santoro and MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

comments powered by Disqus
Follow MercatorNet
Facebook
Twitter
MercatorNet RSS feed
subscribe to newsletter
Sections and Blogs
Harambee
PopCorn
Conjugality
Careful!
Family Edge
Sheila Reports
Reading Matters
Demography Is Destiny
Bioedge
Conniptions
Connecting
Above
Vent
From the Editor
Information
contact us
our ideals
our People
our contributors
Mercator who?
partner sites
audited accounts
donate
advice for writers
privacy policy
New Media Foundation
L1 488 Botany Rd
Alexandria NSW 2015
Australia

editor@mercatornet.com
+61 2 8005 8605
skype: mercatornet

© New Media Foundation