We explain what populations are, how they are classified and their growth. Also, what are its characteristics and examples.

The population is the set of individuals that inhabit a certain area.

What is the population?

By the term usually refers to the set of individuals (generally humans, but not exclusively) that make up a community or that inhabit a specific geographical area or space. It is often used in disciplines such as demography, ecology and statistics.

The study of populations dates back to Antiquitywhen the considered father of demography, the Arab Ibn Aljún (Abenhaldún in Spanish), he composed his works in which he studied the formation of Arab peoples, using statistical data for the first time in history.

The word “population” It comes from the Latin populatio“crew”and this one of populus, which meant “people” or “citizenship”. At present, the populations are the object of various studies and different analytical perspectives, which try to find the trends of formation, development and growth of the communities of our species.

See also: Rural and urban population

population concept

The concept of population varies according to specific discipline. For example, for demography, a population is a stable and constituted set of individuals, linked to each other by reproduction dynamics and by a sense of identity in territorial, cultural, religious, political, ethnic and/or legal terms.

On the other hand, for biology, ecology or sociology, a population is nothing more than a set of individuals sharing a specific geographythus being able to speak of human populations, populations of red foxes or microorganisms.

In the case of statistics the concept becomes even more abstract: a population will be a certain set of elements of which a portion will be subjected to scrutiny or study.

population types

Population - Herd
Gregarious populations share migratory, defensive or predatory purposes.

In principle, one can distinguish between human populations and animal populations or plant populations, depending on the nature of the individuals to be studied. In this sense, there would be as many types of populations as there are categories of them.

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On the other hand, populations can be classified as follows, according to their biological considerations:

  • family populations. Those in which individuals are united by a bond of consanguinity or kinship.
  • Gregarious populations. Those formed by groups of individuals not necessarily related, but that share some type of group movement, whether for migratory, defensive or predatory purposes: prides of lions, schools of fish, packs of dogs, etc.
  • State populations. Those characterized by the hierarchization, specialization and distribution of tasks among its individuals, which makes isolated life possible.
  • Colonial populations. Those that form physically united individuals or that share very small spaces, in which they proliferate and from which they generally do not move, such as corals.

growth and decrease

Populations, whatever their type, usually grow (increase in the total number of individuals) or decrease (decrease in the total number of individuals), according to conditions that can be studied. They are between them:

  • Resource availability. Populations settled in a place where resources are more available (food, space, etc.) will have an important element in their favor to grow, while those that lack it will grow more slowly or, if the resources have suddenly disappeared, will start to decrease.
  • Survival. If the conditions of a population allow a long life expectancy for its individuals, it is much more likely that they will reproduce more than once and lead their own lives to a happy term, while in much more ferocious conditions (wars, famines, etc. .) Populations tend to decrease, since their new individuals do not have time to reproduce.
  • Mobility. Populations are not necessarily closed entities, and it is possible that individuals change their population once or several times in their lives, causing one to grow and the other to decrease: a migrant decreases the starting population, but increases the destination population.

Birth and mortality

The birth rate is the number of births in a given period.

Two central rates or trends that cause the growth and decline of populations they are the birth of new individuals and their death. These are processes that occur in all populations, as one generation replaces the other, but not in exactly the same proportion.

To understand this process, it is on the one hand the concept of birth rate: the number of individuals born in a certain period. On the other hand, the mortality rate: the number of individuals who die in a given period.

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Both figures are compared, and thus we will be able to know what fate awaits the population, for example:

  • If the birth rate is much higher than the death rate, the population will grow vertiginously.
  • If the birth rate is just above the death rate, the population will grow slowly.
  • If the birth rate is equal to the death rate, the population will neither increase nor decrease.
  • If the death rate is much higher than the birth rate, the population will decrease vertiginously.
  • If the death rate is just above the birth rate, the population will slowly decline.

Population density

The population density (or relative population) is a calculation that averages the number of inhabitants and the available space for them to inhabit For this, the total number of inhabitants is divided between the surface area of ​​the territory (inhab/kmtwo), which returns a number that will indicate how densely populated a location is.

If the density is high, the inhabitants have little space for themselves, since they are many for the populated space; If, on the contrary, it is low, they will have a lot of space for themselves, since they are few for the populated space.

For example, the city of Buenos Aires has a population density of 14,458.8 inhab/kmtwowhile the Canadian capital, Ottawa, has a density of 278.6 inhab/kmtwo.

population pyramid

pyramid population
The societies with the best quality of life form stationary pyramids.

The number of individuals of each sex and age range of a population is commonly represented in a population pyramid, that is, a graph that locates the groups of sex and number of individuals on an X axis, and age on a Y axis.

A) Yes, a joint visualization of the population distribution is obtained based on their sex (men on the right and women on the left) and age, and depending on the longevity of the population, we can have these types of pyramid:

  • expansive pyramid. Wide base and narrow top, indicate a predominance of the young population, decreasing in number as it ages. It is typical of populations with high birth and death rates.
  • Stationary pyramid. With a smaller base and less difference from the top, it indicates a predominant adult population, but with good survival, typical of mature populations with a higher quality of life.
  • Regressive pyramid. With a narrow base and more extensive tops, indicative of a majority old population, the result of low mortality and birth rates, as in low-growth populations.
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economic population

The analysis of populations from an economic point of view yields two types of inhabitants:

  • Economically active population. Those inhabitants who are inserted in the productive dynamics, that is, who are in physical and mental conditions to work, even if they are currently vacant. Also called the working-age population.
  • Economically inactive population. Those inhabitants disabled for employment for various physical or mental reasons. They are also known as dependent population, since it must be maintained by the active population.

population censuses

Censuses allow a better understanding of population trends in society.

censuses They are the instrument par excellence to register and know a population, especially humans. It is carried out through the enumeration of the inhabitants and the detail of their characteristics, from a social, economic, family perspective, etc.

All this data is then processed and feed the production of statisticswhich allows drivers and analysts of society to better understand its population trends.

The world population

The human population as a whole is, according to the 2009 census, about 7 billion inhabitants distributed throughout the earth’s surface, in the 194 recognized countries of the planet.

If it is considered that in 1804 we were approximately a billion, and that in 1974 we already reached 4 billion, it will be seen that we are a growing total population, but at an ever slower rate. It is estimated that we will reach a population equilibrium around the year 2093, when we reach 11,500 million inhabitants.

population examples

A population can be the set of individuals who voted for a political tendency.

Examples of population in its various meanings can be the population of common cockroaches that exists in the kilometers of pipes in your city, or the total inhabitants of the neighborhood where do you live.

Population can also be used to refer to individuals on the electoral register or censusor of those who voted according to one or another political tendency (numerically, since in a democracy the vote must be secret).


  • “Biological population” on Wikipedia.
  • “Characteristics of the population” at Francisco Morazán National Pedagogical University.
  • “Health status of the population” in Pan American Health Organization.

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