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Population Density: Definition, Formula & Examples

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  • 0:01 People Per Area
  • 0:46 Formula for Population Density
  • 1:33 Example 1
  • 2:15 Example 2
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

When looking at population, one of the aspects you want to consider is population density. In this lesson you'll learn about the formula for calculating population density and see some examples using this formula.

People per Area

What is the population of your hometown? Is it a big city or a rural farming town? Depending on how much land your town covers, the population of two such different areas could actually be the same. Population as a flat number only tells you how many people there are; it doesn't actually look at those people in relation to the area where they live.

If you want to know how many people there are in a certain area, what you want is population density. This tells you the population as it relates to the amount of land area in which those people live. Population density helps show the difference between a small but dense city and a widely spread out town, even if the absolute population is the same.

Formula for Population Density

The formula for calculating population density is Dp= N/A. In this equation, Dp is the density of population, N is the total population as a number of people, and A is the land area covered by that population.

A is usually expressed in terms of either square miles or square kilometers, especially when you're looking at human population. However, you could use smaller units as well. For example, if you're looking at the population density of a type of insect on a tree, you would use square feet or square meters, because kilometers would be far too large. You might also use acres if you're looking at the population density of cattle on a ranch. The same population density formula applies to both human and non-human populations.

Example 1

Let's look at a human population first. The population of Edmonton, Canada, in 2011 was 812,200 people. This number would be N.

The land area of Edmonton covers approximately 700 square kilometers, or 270 square miles. For this example we will calculate the density per square kilometer, so A= 700.

This means your formula is Dp= 812,200/700. Dp= 1,160.3

So the population density of Edmonton in 2011 was approximately 1,160 people per square kilometer.

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