A Demography Lesson (or Size Matters)


Maybe it is just my work focus on benchmarking, but I’ve been thinking about the comparative size of the UK.  After all, we’ve been traveling around it quite a bit this summer, and sometimes it seems really big, but other times not.  So how big is it, really?  Well, to start, you have to know that the UK (which, by the way, is short for “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”) is a “unitary state” comprised of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  I think we mentioned that before. 

One View of the UK

As a whole, the UK has about 62 million people, which makes it the 22nd largest country in the world, a bit larger than Italy but a bit smaller than Thailand.  On a smaller scale, it is the third-largest country in Europe people-wise after Germany and France  (assuming you don’t count Russia and Turkey, which are both larger).  Interesting that the UK and France are close to the same – although France is more than twice as big land-wise…and who knew that France was the largest country by land in the EU, larger even than Germany? 

Looking at it a couple of other ways, the UK population is a bit more than Canada and Australia combined.  In US terms, this is more than you think; although it pales in comparison to the US total of 307 million, 62 million is the combined population of basically all of what is considered to be the Northeast (DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, plus all of New England).   

What about those four pieces of the UK?  Well, as you probably know, England is the giant, with 51.5 million people, or 83% of the UK total.  Again, in US terms, this is roughly equal to the combined population of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.  Scotland’s population is about 5.2 million, which is slightly more than Colorado, slightly less than Minnesota (which would make it the 22nd largest state people-wise).  Wales is almost exactly 3 million people, which puts it smack between Iowa and Mississippi, as the 31st largest state, or a bit less than the combination of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.  Finally, Northern Ireland is left with 1.8 million, almost exactly the same as Nebraska or West Virginia (ha!), but still bigger than 12 states.

Well, that is more than you wanted to know about population.  But what about land area and population density?  This is where differences are even greater!  I’m going to focus here on Scotland (where we’ve been recently) and England (duh!).  As a state Scotland would  be a good bit bigger than West Virginia but smaller than South Carolina, or about the land area of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire combined.  However, those three states have about 60% more people (8.5 million vs. 5.2 million).  The point is that a good portion of Scotland, the Highlands, is virtually empty!  Scotland’s population density is about 170 people per square mile, which is slightly denser than Georgia but not as dense as Indiana (not places exactly known for their density, mind you).  Overall, Scotland is almost twice as dense as the US as a whole, which has about 82 people per square mile, but of course that includes the wide-open-west and Alaska and everything. 

Ok, so this isn't a country, but it is EXTREME density! This is Metro Sao Paulo, the incredibly busy subway in Sao Paulo, Brazil (please excuse the work intrusion, but this is what comes to mind when I think of density).

At about 50,000 square miles, England is the same size as Nicaragua or Greece, but who knows how big that is?  Stateside, England would fall between Louisiana and Mississippi as the 32nd largest state.  It is just a bit smaller than New York State, but with more than 2.5 times as many people.  So, the interesting “bit” is the density; with just over 1,000 people per square mile, England is one of the densest “countries” in the world.  Of sizable countries (let’s say more than 3 million people and more than 3,000 square miles), the only ones denser are Bangladesh (162 million people at almost 3,000/sq mi), Taiwan (23 million people at 1,650/sq mi), South Korea, Puerto Rico (ok, not a country, but still worth a comparison), and the Netherlands (16.6 million people in 16k square miles).  All in all, a pretty crowded place!  In US terms, interestingly, New Jersey is denser than England – NJ is the densest state by far, with almost 1,200 people per square mile, or the same density as Puerto Rico.  Rhode Island is about the same density as England, although it is admittedly too small for a real comparison.  The rest of the states are significantly less dense – going all the way down to Alaska at 1.2 people per square mile!       

Stay tuned for the next geography lesson on the parts of England – aka the Shires.

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Posted on 28/08/2010, in Exploring the UK and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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