Here's What the World Would Look Like—If Maps Were Based on Population

A Reddit user creates a map showing just how big Asia is and, well, how small everything else is.

Busy Streets in India's Uttar Pradesh. (Photo: Karen Kasmauski/Getty Images)

Feb 3, 2015· 1 MIN READ
TakePart fellow Jessica Dollin studied journalism at the University of Arizona. She has written for the Phoenix New Times and HerCampus.

What would a world map look like if country sizes were based on population? The short answer: nothing like the world map we know now. Also, Asia is leaving everyone in the dust.

Thanks to Reddit user TeaDranks—who created this startling map using Microsoft Paint and population data from Wikipedia—we can visualize just how large or small national populations around the world are.

In the map, each square represents 500,000 people, which makes it easy to see how wrong we were about which countries were the “big” ones. For example, Russia might cover most of the territory in Europe, but with 146.3 million inhabitants, it’s smaller than Pakistan, whose population clocks in at 188.6 million. China and India also completely dwarf the rest of the world; India’s population of 1.3 billion is so large that, on this map, it looks like the new Africa. With its 157.6 million residents, Bangladesh, which normally looks like a tiny country nestled next to India, gets to share way more of the spotlight. With a population of 35.6 million, Canada, which typically sprawls above the U.S., shrinks to a sliver of red.

World Population Map

The map is inspired by a 10-year-old version made by cartographer Paul Breding that reflected the population at the time: 6,446,131,400. Today, more than 7.1 billion people live on Earth. For map purists, NPR points out that “both maps aren't actually maps, they're cartograms—graphics that scale a region's geographic space according to a particular attribute.” TeaDranks also plans to update the map regularly to correct errors and reflect changes in population, according to the user’s Reddit comments (the version here is the third iteration).

As the world gets bigger, however, the map is a reminder that growing populations present a host of new challenges. A U.N. report found that by 2100, 5.7 billion people could live in Africa, which puts pressure on already dwindling resources, and India’s booming population continues to strain the country’s sanitation woes. Reddit user danmocz noted that even if 1 billion people left China, the country would still have a greater population than that of the U.S.