Experts estimate that the global population as of 8,000 BCE rested around five million, approximately three million less than the current population of New York City. This number did not officially hit the one billion mark until 1804.
By 1924, the global population was two billion. Since then, it has soared exponentially, experiencing rapid growth unprecedented in human history. To be more precise, it grew by a billion roughly every twelve to fifteen years.
As of 2020, the global population has risen to an astonishing 7.8 billion. Interestingly, 108 billion people have ever walked this earth. Because of the recent rapid growth, this means that whoever is alive today makes up 6.5 percent of this extremely high number.
The current article discusses the countries with the greatest share of world population. China, India, and United States rank top on this list.
Population By Continents
Asia is easily the most populated continent in the world at 4.6 billion people; this equates to about 59 percent of the total global population. It is also the continent that has experienced the most growth. As of the mid-1950s, it grew by roughly three billion people, contributing to the quick global upswing.
Africa is the second most populated continent at 1.3 billion people, or seventeen percent of the total global population. While their numbers have not skyrocketed like Asia, they did experience significant growth, rising by more than a billion since the mid-1950s.
The five other continents all have populations under one billion, with Europe and both Americas all existing in the 400 to 700 million range. Growth over the past half-century has been noteworthy, but modest in comparison to the two continents above.
Australia has a current population of 42 million, or 0.55 percent of the total global population. To put this number in perspective, Tokyo, the capital of Japan and the most populated city in the world, has 39 million residents, just three less than the entire continent of Australia.
Lastly, Antarctica has a population of zero. Even though there are people who live in this southern and frigid region, they are not considered permanent residents or citizens.
Top Five Most Populated Countries
Because Asia has the most inhabitants out of all seven continents, it stands to reason that China is the most populated country in the world. At 1.4 billion people, eighteen percent of the global population live in this large eastern country. In fact, China accounts for approximately 32 percent of Asia’s total population.
Despite these numbers, China falls in the middle of the top five in terms of population density with 153 residents per square kilometer. Back during the 1950s, 84 percent of the population lived in rural areas. As time progressed and the population continued to grow, the more people began moving to bigger cities. Currently, 61 percent of China’s population live in urban centers, while roughly the same number of people live in rural regions today as they did back in 1955.
The country with the second highest number of citizens is India. It has a current population over 1.3 billion. This equates to roughly 17.5 percent of the global population, a mere 0.5 percent less than China.
Because India is significantly smaller, they have a higher population density at 464 residents per square kilometer. Similar to China, however, more than eighty percent of people lived in rural areas during the 1950s. While the opposite is true for China today, the majority of Indians—65 percent—still live in these rural regions.
The United States is the only North American country to appear in the top five. It has a total population of 331 million, or 4.23 percent of the global population. This is more than a twelve percent drop from first and second place.
The overall population of the United States began to increase around the mid-twentieth century due in part to immigration. The country attracted a large number of foreign-born individuals and families who came for any number of reasons, including work, education, and sanctuary. As of 1960, there were approximately 9.7 million immigrants living in the United States. This number more than quadrupled over the following fifty plus years. In 2018, the foreign-born population reached a record high 44.8 million, or 13.7 percent of the total US population.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Pakistan is the third and final Asian country to appear in the top five. It is located in the south and runs along Afghanistan and Iran on its western border and India on the east. As of 2020, it has a population over 221 million, or 2.83 percent of the total global population.
It is easily the smallest country on this list at 770,880 square kilometers, but it trails India in terms of highest population density. Pakistan has seen recent population increases unlike the four other countries, growing by an astonishing 57 percent since 1998. This is due in part to alarming birthrates, some of the highest in the world. These fast climbing numbers are evident in the amount of crowded public spaces, such as schools and clinics.
Rounding out the top five is Brazil, which has a population of 212 million people. This accounts for 2.71 percent of the overall global population, just shy of Pakistan’s 2.83 percent.
Brazil has the smallest population density at 25 residents per square kilometer. It does, however, have the highest urban population at 87.6 percent; its rural population has been steadily decreasing since the 1950s, dropping from 59 to twelve percent as of 2020. Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the two cities with the most people, while Brasilia, the nation’s capital, comes in at number six.
Of course, this means Europe, Australia, and Antarctica do not have countries appearing in the top five.
Future Population Trends
According to the Pew Research Center, this top five list is going to look very different come the year 2100. India will replace China as the most heavily populated country in the world, growing to 1.4 billion. China’s population, on the other hand, is projected to decrease to one billion.
Across the ocean, the United States is going to experience significant population gains, rising to 434 million; however, it is still expected to slip from third to fourth place. Nigeria will take its vacated spot with an estimated population of 733 million people.
Pakistan is also projected to slip—bumping Brazil out of the top five—even though it is expected to almost double in size, growing from 221 to 403 million people.
There are currently six Asian countries in the top ten. As of 2100, this will be whittled down to the three mentioned above. In fact, five of the ten will be located in Africa: Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Egypt.