Cross-National Comparison of Population Density

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Science  14 Sep 1973:
Vol. 181, Issue 4104, pp. 1016-1023
DOI: 10.1126/science.181.4104.1016


The unresolved difficulties associated with defining and measuring population density strictly circumscribe the scope and nature of the conclusions that can be properly derived from differentials in man:land ratios. Any conclusions about human density will have meaning only to the extent that they are based on a recognition that this density must be viewed in both static and dynamic terms and that it cannot be isolated in analysis, from either the social and cultural setting, the demographic characteristics of the population, or the broader processes of social change within the society. In and of itself, the familiar man:land ratio says more about area than it does about either the human experience of density or the relation of population to resources. This ratio is therefore essentially meaningless as an indicator of comparative conditions of life among different countries and different geographic regions. The mere fact of having a relatively low average population density thus, does not automatically entitle a nation to complacency about its ability to adjust readily to future population change, either in terms of growth in numbers or in the geographic location of its people.