Percent of World Population by Region

Over the past two centuries there has been a shift in the location of the worlds population. This chart shows the percent of world population by region over that time period.

In the beginning of the 19th century the world finally crossed 1 billion in total population. Nearly 70% of the world population lived in Asia at the time. The massive populations in China, India and other southeast Asian territories accounted for a majority of that, and still do to this day.

Europe had the second highest population at the beginning of the 19th century. After a century of increasing, the region has seen its share steadily decrease. It is now to the point where as of 2019, Africa has overtaken it as the second most populous region.

Despite the massive population advantage, it’s worth noting that the Europeans colonized most of these Asian territories in the 19th-early 20th centuries. The technological and economic advantages the Europeans employed saw a vast transfer of wealth from Asia to Europe. The same can be said of Europe with the Americas and Africa, though they had the population advantage there.

Percent of World Population by Region

Percent of World Population by Region chart

The main reason for the large swings in global population share is due to birth rates, death rates and migrant rates.

North America and the United States in particular saw a huge influx of immigrants across this time period. This is why the global population share of the region increased from ~1% to just over ~5% in two centuries.

Europe, on the other hand, saw a drastic decrease in their birth rates across the last century. Because of this and policies limiting immigrants, several European countries have actually seen negative population growth in recent years.

In the last half century the population of Africa has exploded. It’s in these years that the region has finally gotten its death rate under control as the region became more developed and public health initiatives began to take effect. As the region has one of the highest birth rates, their share of the global population is only expected to continue its rise.

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Source: Our World in Data

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