This unit shows how population is a major factor in geographical settlement

Population refers to the total number of people living in an area for a particular period of time. The total population of the world is 6.6 billion as per July 2007.

 Birth Rate:

This is the number of live births per thousand people of the population per year. The birth rate in developing countries is very high while that in developed countries is very low.


Niger               51.3 per 1000

Uganda           47.7 per 1000

Kenya              32.9 per 1000

Nigeria            39.9 per 1000


Developed countries

France             12.2 per 1000

Denmark         11.2 per 1000

Canada                        10.3 per 1000

U.K                 12 per 1000

Spain               10.8 per 1000

Switzerland     9.2 per 1000


Death Rate:

This is the number of deaths per 1000 people per year. In developing countries its very high whiles in developed countries its very low.


Sierra Leon      22.1

Liberia             18.3

Rwanda           17.2

DRC                18.1


Developed countries

Spain               8.8

USA                8.2

Switzerland     8.1

Canada                        7.9

Turkey             6


Growth Rate

This is the difference between birth rate and dearth rate. If a country has a high birth rate and a low death rate, its population growth rate is high. If it has a low birth rate and a low death rate, its population growth rate is low.

The population growth rate of most developing countries is high over 3% while that of developed countries is low some with less than 1%.

Infant Motility Rate

This is the number of death of children below 1 year per 1000. The infant motility rate in developing countries is very high while that in developed countries is very low.


Developed countries:

Switzerland                 4.1

Norway                       3.3

Sweden                       3.2

Iceland                                    2.9

Japan                           3.2


Developing countries

Sierra Leone                160.3

Liberia                         132.5

Somalia                       116.3

DRC                            111.5

Rwanda                       112.4


According to UN statistics 40,000 children die per day. The population growth rate of Africa is 2.6 % and that of Latin America is 2.7%.

The annual growth rate of Africa is lowered because of the high death rate

Africa has the highest motility rate of 154 per 1000 followed by Asia with 116. The life expectancy for Africa is about 50 years while that of Europe is more than 70 years.

In USA its 74 years for white males, 86 for white females and 69 years for blacks


In stage I both birth rates and death rates increase while in stage II the death rate goes down this presents a developing country.

In stage III both the death rate and birth rate are low representing a developed country


  • Culture/ tradition

In some societies especially in Africa the children a man has the more prestige therefore men always ensure to have many wives who can give birth to many children.

The children are also regarded as an extra source of labour in agriculture therefore families ensure that they have many children. In developed countries most marriages are monogamous and therefore a few children are born in the family.

Some religions like Islam allow polygamous marriages as these increases the number of children in the family.

The catholic religion discourages the use of birth control methods and therefore women given birth to many children.


  • Marriage age

In developed countries women usually marry after 25 years and therefore give birth to fewer children while in developing countries marriage age is very low at around 16 such that a woman give birth too many children.


  • Government policy

In some countries the government may discourage giving birth e.g. some governments have decided to reduce the number of children per woman in order to reduce population growth.

China has a population of 1.6 billion and the government has set a rule that every family should have 2 children while countries like Sweden have decided to increase their population growth and the government has set a policy that every child born is basically financially catered for by the government.

  • Education levels

Societies that have basically educated women have low birth rates because the educated women know the dangers of having too many children and also spend long in school.

This happens in most developed countries.

In developing countries low education levels leads to high birth rates because of women do not practice birth control methods.


  • Fertility rate

Societies whose women are fertile gives birth too many children while those with less fertile women have low birth rates.

It’s believed that the West African women are very fertile and therefore give birth to very many children.


  • Political situation

Wars usually reduce the population growth rate due to the many numbers of people who die sometimes others migrate to safer areas increasing the population in the receiving area.


  • Improvement in medicine, technology and communication has also increased population growth rates.

This is because the sick people especially the children can easily access medical care decreasing infant mortality rate while communities with poor medical facilities and transport services still have death rates reducing the population growth.



The population of the world is even while some areas are very densely populated others are sparsely populated.

The most densely populated continent is Asia and it has almost 3 1/4‘s of the world’s population. Its followed by Europe and the most sparsely populated continent is Australia.

Within the continents there are also variations in the distribution e.g. in Asia there is a higher concentration in the South East i.e. India, south East of China, Malaysia and Japan.  China has one of the world’s largest populations (1.6 billion).

In Europe the higher concentration is in the North West i.e. Britain, Germany and France. In North America there are more people on the Eastern side especially the Eastern sea board and around the great lakes and it is also dense on the south west side in the state of California.

In Africa there is a higher concentration at the coast along and around water bodies and in the highland areas. Generally the worlds over there are higher concentration of people along the coast, rivers and around major lakes and in the urban centers.

The most sparsely populated areas include North Africa in the Sahara, south west of Africa in the Kalahari, the Amazon basin of south America, north of Canada. The extreme north and Eurasia e.g. the Siberian region, Australia and the Gobi desert.


Physical Factors

  • Climate

This is the single most important factor that influences population distribution because man has no direct control over it.

Areas that experience high temperatures with low unreliable rainfall are generally sparsely populated because they don’t favour agricultural activities and the extreme climatic conditions are also not favorable for settlement e.g. hot deserts like the Sahara, Kalahari.

Likewise areas with extremely low temperatures are sparsely populated because they hinder most human activities especially agriculture e.g. Northern Canada, North of Eurasia and the extreme south of South America.

The cold conditions are very uncomfortable for man to exist. Areas that receive high reliable rainfall with moderate temperatures are generally densely populated because they favour human activities especially agriculture. More than 50% of the world’s population depends directly or indirectly on agriculture for a living.

Such densely populated areas include the Equatorial and tropical lands of Asia e.g. India, the Pacific islands, West Africa e.g. Nigeria.

The Mediterranean region are also densely populated because of their conducive climate characteristic i.e. warm dry summers and cool wet winters.

These conditions are an attraction to many settlers and they also favour the growth of fruits e.g. the cape region of Africa, California, Italy and Spain and the North West tip of Africa.


  • Soils

Areas with fertile soils are usually agriculturally productive and they support a lot of people i.e. the rich deep volcanic soils of Jamaica, Haiti, Indonesia, Rwanda-Burundi, Kenyan highlands and Ethiopian highlands.

All these areas are densely populated. Also areas with rich alluvial soils like the Ganges valley in India, the Nile valley and a number of coastal regions.

While areas with infertile soils are usually sparsely populated because they cannot favour agriculture e.g. Sahara.

  • Relief

Areas with steep ragged mountains are sparsely populated because they are inaccessible and hinder settlement and other human activities e.g. the Rockies (USA) and Andes (South America), Drankensburg region (South Africa) while areas with gentle slopes / relatively flat land are usually densely populated because they facilitate man’s activities e.g. the flat lands of India, gentle slopes around mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro.

Areas found at high altitudes are usually sparsely populated because they have very low temperatures and are extremely cold making them inhabitable for man e.g. the Alps region while in Africa altitudes above 4500 m are very cold therefore most mountainous areas there is no settlement above 3000m.


  • Drainage:

Most of man’s activities require water e.g. domestic use, industrial use and irrigation. Therefore areas which are well supplied with water are usually densely populated e.g. the great lakes of North America, Nile valley, Rhino valley and the shores of Lake Victoria.

While areas with hardly any water are sparsely populated because it’s difficult for man to sustain himself e.g. desert like Kalahari, Sahara, Namibia desert


  • Gobi, Syrian Desert

Areas that are poorly drained with swamps and water logged areas are sparsely populated because they harbor mosquitoes and other dangerous animals and it’s difficult to carry out human activities such areas i.e. the Niger Delta which is covered by mangroves the bogs of central England and the Pripet Mourshes of Russia.


  • Pests and diseases

Areas that are infected with pests and diseases are sparsely populated because they are a threat to man’s existence i.e. Miombo woodland which are infected with tsetse flies that attack both man and animals.

Tsetse flies also cover a large area of central Africa. The western part of Africa is also sparsely populated because it is infected with locusts which destroy all green vegetation and therefore discourages crop farming and grasshoppers which destroy the rice. Other diseases like Ebola in the Congo are also becoming a treat making people migrate.


  • Vegetation

Areas that   are covered with thick dense forests are sparsely populated because they harbor wild animals which are a threat to man and they receive very high rainfall which is not conducive for human activities i.e. the Congo Basin, Amazon basin and the highlands of Bornie, while with grasslands usually have an average vegetation.


  • Mineral resources

Where mineral depositors are found there is usually a dense population because the mines after employment as well as an opportunity to become rich e.g. the Rand region in South Africa which has gold, the Shinyanga region of northern Tanzania with diamonds, the Zambian copper belt, the Texas region with oil, the Ruhr region with its coal, the coastal regions of north Africa with oil i.e. Liberia.


  • Coastal location.

Most areas close to the coast are densely populated. This is because they are easily accessible and also promote the growth of trade.

This has led to the growth of many coastal towns e.g. Rotterdam, New York, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Sydney, Port Harcourt in Nigeria, Vancouver in British Colombia.

Human factors

  • Political situation.

Politically unstable areas become sparsely populated as a result of migration of people to safe areas or the death of some people as a result of the war e.g. Somalia, South Sudan, Palestine etc while areas that are politically stable have a moderate population.


  • Economic potential.

Areas that offer employment e.g. industrial centers and urban centers are more densely populated e.g. the Swiss plateau, the rand, New York, Ruhr.


Areas that are well serviced with transport networks are generally populated because they facilitate human activities. Remote areas are sparsely due to the limited economic potential e.g Congo basin, Amazon basin, northern Russia, northern Kenya.


Urban areas are densely populated because they often offer more employment opportunities than rural areas. They are usually attractive as they offer better social services e.g. New York, Tokyo etc.


  • Government policy

The government may decide to resettle people from a densely populated area to sparsely populated areas in order to solve the problem of overpopulation e.g. Mweya tebere and Kilombero schemes were established for this purpose. The government may also gazette off some areas for wild animals or forest reserves making them sparsely populated.


Historical factors

Large areas of the Middle belt of West Africa are sparsely populated as a result of historical movements like the Fulani, Jihad wars in Nigeria, as well as slave trading. Areas of Central Africa are also sparsely populated as a result of the slave trade.

Some highlands of Sudan and Nigeria are densely populated because they were used as defensive sites in the 19th Century. The coast land of East Africa has packets of densely populated areas because they were used as tracking sites in the 19th century.


Over population

It’s a situation where a country’s resources can endanger sustain the people at that degree of development. This means that the population is higher than the natural resources that can reasonably sustain it.

Over population is a serious problem in many developing countries especially in the tropics e.g. South East Asia i.e. Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, India


Effects of Over Population

On the positive side, countries that have very high population,

  1. Have a large supply of labour encouraging
  2. High security because the country can develop a large army

The large population provides market for most of the goods and services provided

  1. It provides a high tax base because of the increased number of taxable income
  2. Leads to maximum utilization of available resources
  3. Leads to growth of urban areas because many people provide skills.
  4. Leads to provision of social infrastructure for the large population
  5. It encourages competition and innovation as the large population has to find ways of living economically.


Negative effects

They are many problems created as a result of over population.

  1. Shortage of land which leads to land fragmentation and land disputes
  2. There is over exploitation of economic resources resulting into mineral exhaustion, soil exhaustion, over fishing, depletion of forest resources
  3. There is unemployment and under employment resulting into high crime rates, the development of slums with its associated problems.
  4. How standards of living caused by poor housing, poor sanitation and health conditions as well as poor nutrition.
  5. There is slow growth of industries as a result of the large number of unskilled labour.
  6. There is food shortage due to the scarcity of land this also leads to malnutrition and in severe cases famine.
  7. There is environmental degradation e.g deforestation, setting on wetland and the utility of political refugee.
  8. There is high dependence burden because of the fact that many people are unemployed and they have to depend on the few that are employed and this lowers the standard of living.
  1. The provision of social services becomes hard or expensive because the government has to increase expenditure on those services.
  2. High level of immigration because people move out of the areas to search for more productive places.
  3. Rural – urban migration. People assume that there are more jobs and better services in urban areas so they move in search of these advantages creating congestion.

As a result of the above problems, the population is generally poor and can not meet its specific needs.



  1. Introduction of birth control methods. This is done through educating the population especially the rural communities in massive campaigns
  2. Increasing the marriage age especially foe females by educating them
  3. Hand reclamation such as terracing steep slopes to provide more land for settlement.
  4. There is land consolidation so that the land is more effectively utilized.
  5. Improve on agriculture methods so as to increase food production by using fertilizers encouraging mixed farming as well as inter – cropping.
  6. The government should encourage development of labour intensive industries so as to utilize the unemployment labour.
  7. The government should set up strict laws to discourage immigration into the country.
  8. There should be improvement of infrastructure in rural areas and governments should setup small scale industries in these areas to provide employment and better standards of living so that people stay in those areas.
  9. Government should – ensure that there is political stability so as to curb the need of political refugee


This is a situation where the people in an area are fewer compared to the resources available.

This means that the people are too few to utilize the available resources i.e in Sweden, Finland, DRC, Australia.



  1. There is shortage of labour which leads to slow industrial growth
  2. There is a small tax base because of low population
  3. The market is small
  4. There is under utilization of resources which leads to low economic development
  5. There is remoteness because pushes of the population are surrounded by large areas of unoccupied land.
  6. It becomes expensive for the government to provide social services such as the good development of transport network and communication lines.
  7. It becomes expensive to hire foreign labour into the country



  1. Encouraging migration but for selected skilled labour
  2. Encourage foreign investment
  3. Make abortion illegal


Optimum population

This is a situation where the population is proportional to the available resources. This implies that a slight increase or decrease of the population won’t cause a problem as the productivity will respond positively to the change but a move proportionate change in the population may either lead to over or under population. Optimumly populated countries include USA, France, Switzerland, Britain, and Netherlands.



  1. Full utilization of resources
  2. There is full employment since there is availability of employment opportunities.
  3. There is a high standard of living
  4. There are high levels of industrial growth as markets are the products are available.
  5. High levels of economic development
  6. There is availability of all social, economic facilities.



This shows the composition of the population by age and sex. Most developing countries have very young populations with a low medium age i.e. the population structure have a wide base with many people below 20 years, few working population and very few above 60 years.

For Africa its 18.3, Latin America 19, Asia 21. In developed countries even medium age is high, in USA its 28.1, Britain 34, Sweden 35.2, and the world’s average is 23.

Population pyramids and their implications.

In developing countries the pyramids have a very wide base which keeps on decreasing as the ages increase.

In developing countries, the young population (0-20) has the largest percentage while the old population (above 60 has a very small percentage.

0-440 -44
5-945 – 49
10-1450 – 54
15-1955 – 59
20 -2460 – 64
25 -2965 – 69
30 -3470 – 74
35 -39Over 74



  1. There is high birth rate
  2. High dependence ration because of the high percentage of the young population e.g. in Nigeria 43% is below15 years and only 2% is above 665 years. It has a dependence ratio of 82%.
  3. There is a low life expectancy since few people live over 65 years
  4. There is a limited labour force because of the greater percentage of young people the encourages the use of child labour.
  5. There is a low rate of economic development due to the limited skilled labour
  6. The government has to invest a lot in services like schools and hospitals instead of money generating projects like industries
  7. There is a high infant mortality rate i.e. the percentage of the population keeps on decreasing with years.


All the above problems lead to low standards of living.

In developed countries, the pry age group. It doesn’t have a lost the same in every age group. It doesn’t have a wide base and there is a good percentage above 60



  1. They have low birth rates
  2. They have a low dependence level.
  3. The labour force is available since there is a big working percentage
  4. They have a high life expectancy with a opal lives up to 85 years
  5. There are many investment programmes that are income geberating.
  6. They have high standards of living cause of the high level of the working class. All the above indicate a high level of the economic development.


Population movement

This can be internal from one region of a country to another or international from one country to another. The imports will be either temporarily or permanent.


  • In search of land

If an area is over populated, the more opposed people will be forced to move away for better and fertile land e.g. there are many Europeans who moved to north America in South Africa, from Rwanda to Southern Uganda and from many rural areas of developing countries to other rural areas.


  • Search for employment opportunities

People move from areas with few employments opposite to other areas where a chance of gathering a job is.

There has been movement of many people from Malawi and Zambia to South Africa to work in the mines because they offer better wages than the agriculture sector.

There’s also movement of many people from rural to urban areas on search of while collar jobs especially in developing countries.

There has also been a major influx of mainly skilled workers from dumping countries to develop0ed countries because they offer move money (brain drain) this has been very significant in areas like Nigeria.


  • Political stability

As a result of wars and unrest people forced to move to safer areas to protect their lives e.g. Sara Toro and Congo people moving to their neighboring countries.

As a result of natural calamities like earth quakes, disease outbreak, volcanic action, floods etc force some people to move from their homeland to safer areas e.g. flooding in the river valley of Mozambique, Gange areas of Somalia and Ethiopia are prone to drought conditions, earthquakes in India and Japan, Ebola in western Uganda in Congo all force people to move to safer region.

  • Adventure

This is especially common to tourists who visit places for sightseeing and go back to their homeland.


  • Urbanization

There is significant movement of people from rural – urban areas especially in developing countries in search better social services, the glamour of towns in some times in search of employment opportunities.


  • Government policy

The government may decide to move people from one area to another e.g. through re-settlement schemes in order to avail more land for the population such as Mwen, Tobere, Kilombero in Usama villages.


  • Religious factors

This is mostly temporal e.g. pilgrim to Mecca, Rome and Jerusalem. Sometimes its permanent if one religion is oppressed by another forcing them to move. There was oppression in the communist countries towards those who had stronger religious belief.


  • Culture

Some countries move / migrate from one place to another as a way of life e.g. nomadic pastoralists who move in search of water and pasture like the Turkana, Masai, Karamojong in the shifting cultivators who abandoned land when it loses fertility like Bemba of Zambia.

There are many causes of disputes some of which arise from or out of land issues. This forces the oppressed to move the dispute free areas.



Rural to rural migration

This is the movement of people from urban areas to rural areas.


Over population in the urban areas may force people to move to the rural areas in order to avoid people from overcrowding and congesting.

The big population totals in urban areas leads to misuse of land leading to degradation therefore leading to displacement of people which go to rural areas.

Movement of migrant workers, people moves from rural areas to urban areas during the times when the economy is active when it’s inactive, they move back to rural areas.

Due to poor facilities housing offered in urban areas due to high population. People decide to move to rural areas where there is space to set up suitable infrastructure.



Increased production in the agriculture sector as the able labour carryout agriculture.

Increased provision of social services into rural areas and the services provided are improved.

Development of rural areas as a result of people applying external skills and knowledge acquired from urban areas.

Cultural moral (degeneration) degradation may occur in the rural areas due to an influx of people from developed areas and how few cultural values and norms.



Rural settlement

It’s defined in terms of population, services and functions but it’s generally accepted that rural settlements have relatively small number of people with houses sited singularly or in small groups.

They are normally inhabited by the people engaged in primary production such as agriculture on small scale.




These are usually agricultural areas divided into large units. The larger the land, the more widely separated the farm instead e.g. the prairies of North America and the white farms of Australia..



Remoteness because of the great distance between the farms.

There is a big cost of providing standard access roads and other services.

Sometimes there is land wastage or under utility especially in the developing countries

People are lonely



There is plenty of land which can be put to various uses.

There is privacy

There is pollution or noise

Epidemics do not spread easily nucleated

This could be clustered or linear



The areas are more accessible as people have more direct contact

Its easy to avail public services from one house to another

There is more security

There is economic development

Better utilization of land



Land shortage with time

Diseases spread easily

Over exploitation of resources


Factors affecting the size of a settlement

  • Water supply

The availability of water in an area enhances settlement since water is mainly for animals and agriculture production.


Availability of land

Land favours commercial plantation agriculture therefore there are more people in such areas to utilize the land to settle.



Availability of good housing facilities influences the size of the settlement.

  • Relief of an area

This affects the size of a settlement of the area is very steep i.e. the slopes of Drankensburg or Atlas, settlement is unfavourable.

But on that and gently sloping land, activities like agriculture can be carried out favouring settlement.


  • De fence

If an area is secure and stable, settlement is favourable. But areas that are unstable are not easily settled.

Many village were built on hills or islands during the instabilities of the 19th century e.g. in Nigeria the inselburgs provided a great defense position.urban settlement

It’s a collection of houses equally occupied by large populations the buildings, functioning as residential houses are also used for admin, economic, social, education and religious purposes.


They are categorized into three i.e linear, frontier and control.


Linear settlement

This is related to trade and transport and transport and development along specific points, communication lines or rivers e.g. along the Rhone.


Frontier situations

These are towns growing in places of constructing characteristics. It could be physical, economic, social or political e.g. a contrast between mountains and lowlands such as Richmond town at the fast hills cost the Appalachian Mountains, desert and Savannah frontier e.g. Timbukutu, the coast leading to the growth of ports e.g. Prince Rupert, Mombasa, Rotterdam.


Central situations

The towns are found in centers of areas of similar activities at production. This could be based on agriculture e.g. Kumasi in Ghana, mining in Johannesburg industrial centers in Rush region

Central situations are focal points. The towns develop because of convergence of transport rates such as Chicago, Tokyo all these are centrally located.


Functions of towns

  1. They are administrative
  2. Others are defense towns and they specialize in the construction of arms e.g Halifax
  1. Others are cultural and educational center e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard
  2. They are religious centers i.e. Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca etc
  3. They are manufacturing centers i.e. Tokyo, New York etc
  4. They are financial towns e.g. Zurich
  5. They are resort towns e.g. Miami, Hawaii, Bern etc
  6. Transfer and distribution centers (trade) e.g. Lagos, Mombasa
  7. Residential towns e.g. California
  8. Entertainment e.g. Las Vegas



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