Special Report

The 30 Least Densely Populated Countries in the World

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15. Niue
> Population density: 16 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 1,626 (the smallest)
> Square miles: 100 (2nd smallest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 0.1% (4th slowest)

The tiny Pacific island nation of Niue, spanning only 100 square miles, has the smallest population of all the least densely populated countries on earth — and that’s down from over 5,000 people in the 1960’s. The country is self-governing but in free association with New Zealand. As all Niueans are automatically citizens of New Zealand, many choose to emigrate to the wealthier nation.

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14. Mauritania
> Population density: 12 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 4,649,658 (21st smallest)
> Square miles: 397,954 (17th largest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 2.8% (8th fastest)

A coastal country in western Africa, Mauritania is largely barren desert. As much of the country is uninhabitable, half of Mauritania’s population resides in the capital city of Nouakchott on the coast, with the other population centers lying along the southern border. Long periods of drought are causing the desert to expand, forcing many nomadic peoples and farmers into urban areas.

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13. Canada
> Population density: 11 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 37,742,154 (6th largest)
> Square miles: 3,511,008 (2nd largest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 0.9% (15th slowest)

The second largest country in the world by area, Canada is largely too cold and inhospitable to host a big population. Its inhabitants are primarily spread along the country’s southern border with the United States, where the climate is milder and agriculture is possible. The country’s population growth is stoked mostly by immigration.

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12. Botswana
> Population density: 11 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 2,351,627 (17th smallest)
> Square miles: 218,815 (24th largest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 2.1% (16th fastest)

Some of Africa’s largest wilderness areas are in Botswana, which is considered one of the most politically stable countries on the continent. The population is largely concentrated in the eastern cities of Gaborone and Francistown, with low concentrations in the Kalahari desert to the southwest. Although Botswana used to have one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world, it now has one of the best treatment programs in Africa.

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11. Guyana
> Population density: 10 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 786,552 (15th smallest)
> Square miles: 76,004 (14th smallest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 0.5% (7th slowest)

A small country on the north coast of South America, Guyana’s interior is heavily forested and uninhabited. About 90% of the population lives along the coast, which accounts for 10% of the country’s land area, and nearly half of those people reside in the capital city of Georgetown and the surrounding metro area. Guyana has one of the highest emigration rates in the world.