Sparsely Populated World Regions

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has an M.A in instructional education.

This lesson will explain the reasons for a sparse population distribution. In doing so, it will highlight the factors of relief, natural resources, climate, and political and economic stability. It will also give examples of sparsely populated areas.

Definition of Sparsely Populated

I live in a very small town where there is one traffic light. Now, if you are traveling near this traffic light at about 4:30 in the afternoon, you may find yourself having to wait about 6 to 7 minutes to get through it. Since I live in a sparsely populated area, this is our rush hour.

Now, if you are listening to this and you live anywhere near a big city, you are probably thinking I'm crazy for calling this rush hour when you are accustomed to freeways that resemble parking lots. However, living in a relatively sparsely populated area, we country folks aren't used to bumper-to-bumper traffic, unless there is an accident or some local chickens escaped from their pens and are hanging out on the road. Today, we're going to discuss areas like mine as we dive into a study on sparsely populated world regions.

For starters, sparsely populated simply defines an area that contains few people. Generally speaking, sparsely populated areas are usually rather challenging places to live. When discussing these challenges, geographers usually break them into physical factors and human factors. For our purposes, we'll start with physical factors.

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  • 0:08 Definition of Sparsely…
  • 1:15 Relief, Natural…
  • 2:45 Politics & Economics
  • 3:37 Sparsely Populated Areas
  • 4:10 Lesson Summary
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Relief, Natural Resources, and Climate

To begin, the relief of an area has a lot to do with its population density. In geography, relief is defined as the difference in elevation between parts of the Earth's surface. When speaking of relief, regions of the world with high elevations tend to be very sparsely populated. A great example of this is the Himalayan region of the Asian continent. This mountainous area makes travel to and from it very difficult. Its mountainous terrain also makes food production extremely challenging. In other words, this area cannot support a lot of people; therefore, it is very sparsely populated.

Natural resources , natural materials, such as minerals, forests, water, and fertile land, that can be used for economic improvement, are another factor that go into population density. Areas that are rich in resources, like the Northeastern U.S., tend to be densely populated. However, areas like the Sahara Desert, which have very little natural resources, are usually very sparsely populated. Speaking of the Sahara Desert, climate also affects population density. Being rather obvious, areas with extreme climates, whether freezing, like the Arctic Circle, or sweltering, like the Sahara, tend to be sparsely populated.

Moving away from physical factors that affect population density, let's take a look at the human factors that cause some areas to be sparsely populated. For this, we'll focus on political and economic factors.

Politics and Economics

When speaking of political factors, areas of the world that suffer from political instability tend to be sparsely populated. Being pretty easy to understand, if given the choice, most people would not want to live in a war zone. Examples of areas that are sparsely populated due to political instability are places like Afghanistan, Syria and today's war-torn Iraq.

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