Special Report

The 30 Least Densely Populated Countries in the World

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5. Namibia
> Population density: 8 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 2,540,905 (18th smallest)
> Square miles: 317,873 (18th largest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 1.9% (20th fastest)

A desert area rich in minerals but with little arable land, Namibia suffers from long periods of drought. About 55% of the population lives rurally, mostly along the northern and northeast border where water is more accessible. Population growth decreased in the 1990’s due to the AIDS epidemic.

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4. Western Sahara
> Population density: 6 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 597,339 (12th smallest)
> Square miles: 102,703 (17th smallest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 2.5% (13th fastest)

Western Sahara is a disputed territory partially occupied by Morocco. The country is largely desert with no arable land and a small amount of pastureland. Until the mid 20th century, it was occupied mostly by the Sahrawi, a nomadic herding people. Due to immigration following Morocco’s attempted annexation, the population increased substantially. Now, over 80% of the population lives in urban areas, and most of those are in the northwest region occupied by Morocco.

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3. Mongolia
> Population density: 5 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 3,278,290 (19th smallest)
> Square miles: 599,830 (11th largest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 1.8% (22nd fastest)

Mongolia is the 19th largest country in the world by area and the third most sparsely populated. The landscape is largely steppe, desert, and semidesert, and 75% of the land is used for livestock grazing. About 45% of the population lives in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital city in the world.

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2. Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
> Population density: 1 person per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 3,480 (2nd smallest)
> Square miles: 4,699 (4th smallest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 4.1% (the fastest)

An isolated archipelago 300 miles from the southern tip of Patagonia, the Falkland Islands were unoccupied when they were colonized by Europeans in the 1700’s. The islands are naturally treeless, with a grassy landscape. Most of the land is used for sheep grazing, and 80% of the population lives in the capital city of Stanley.

Source: Vadim_Nefedov / Getty Images

1. Greenland
> Population density: 0.4 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 56,770 (5th smallest)
> Square miles: 158,475 (24th smallest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 0.1% (3rd slowest)

The island nation of Greenland, 80% of which is covered by a massive glacier, is the 12th largest country in the world by area, but the least densely populated. The country’s arctic and subarctic temperatures range from the 30’s to the 50’s in the summer and are consistently below zero in the winter. Most of the population are Kalaallit (an Inuit people) and over 80% live on the southwest coast, which has the mildest climate.

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