IU - Indiana University

Geography and History of the World


Standard 3. Population Characteristics*, Distribution**, and Migration***

Students will examine the physical and human geographic factors associated with population characteristics, distribution, and migration in the world and the causes and consequences associated with them.


Map the distribution of the world’s human population for different time periods. Analyze changes in population characteristics and population density in specific regions. [Spatial Variation, Change Over Time, Spatial Distribution, Human Environment Interactions]

EXAMPLES: Africa: compare traditional population maps from the 1600–1800s to current maps from the 1900-2000s; Europe: compare traditional population maps from the 1800s to maps of the Present; compare and contrast Ireland in the 1830–40s using traditional maps to maps from the 1980–90s. Then ask questions about these maps, such as: What impact does the availability of particular resources have on the distribution of population? Where is population most densely settled and why? How and why does age-sex structure vary over time and in different regions of the world?


Identify the push-pull factors**** that resulted in the migration of human population over time and detect changes in these factors. [Origins, Change Over Time, Spatial Interaction]

EXAMPLES: China: push – poverty and overpopulation, pull – gold in New World, jobs in Southeast Asia (19th century); Russian Jews: push – anti-Semitism, pull – freedom and economic opportunities in the United States (19th century); Scandinavians: push – poor land, overpopulation, religious intolerance, pull – Homestead Act and freedom in the United States (19th century); Irish: push – famine, pull – economic opportunities in United States (19th century); Europe: push – communist movement in Eastern Europe, pull – freedom in Western Europe (1945–1990); Hispanics from South and Central America: push – poverty and overpopulation, pull – economic opportunities in the United States (1950–Present)


Analyze the changes in population characteristics and physical and human environments that resulted from the migration of peoples within, between, and among world regions. [Change Over Time, Diffusion, Spatial Interaction, Cultural Landscape, Sense of Place]

EXAMPLES: India and China: brain drain to the United States and Europe (20th century); Palestinians: refugees to several Middle-Eastern Countries (1947–Present); West Bank: Jewish settlements (1947–Present); Southwest Asia: economic opportunities in Western Europe (1950–Present), Former Soviet Union: Political and economic exchanges among former Soviet satellites and Russia (1990–Present)


Give examples of and evaluate how the physical and human environments in different regions have changed over time due to significant population growth or decline. [Spatial Variation, Change Over Time, Cultural Landscape, Sense of Place]

EXAMPLES: Europe: prosperous and talented middle class Huguenots from France to German states, Colonial America, and South Africa (1700–1900); Persian Gulf immigrants to United Kingdom (20th Century); movement of individuals in the arts from the Soviet Union to the United States (1950–1990); movement of Japanese to Australia for economic opportunity (1975–Present)


Analyze population trends in the local community and suggest the impact of these trends on the future of the community in relation to issues such as development, employment, health, cultural diversity, schools, political representation, and sanitation. Propose strategies for dealing with the issues identified.[Change Over Time, Spatial Organization, Human Livelihoods, Cultural Landscape, Sense of Place]

EXAMPLES: Obtain population data for city, township, and for the local county covering the decades of 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2000 (U.S. Census of Population). Graph data and changes for each geographical unit, map the population change (growth and decline); analyze where changes of significance have occurred; predict where future population change may occur; the consequences for providing services to the population and school districting; analyze the political and economic impact due to the way that population totals are used to allocate political representation in Congress, county boards, city councils, etc.

* Population Characteristics—The traits of a population including

  • Age-Sex Structure—The composition of a population as determined by the number or proportion of males and females in each age category.
  • Birth Rate—The number of births per 1,000 people in a given year.
  • Death Rate—The number of deaths per 1,000 people in a given year.
  • Growth Rate—The rate at which the population is increasing or decreasing in a given year due to natural increase and migration into the population, expressed as a percentage of the base population.
  • Life Expectancy At Birth—The average number of additional years a person would live if current mortality trends were to continue. A measure of well-being.
  • Natural Increase—The surplus or deficit of births over deaths in a population in a given time period.

** Population Distribution—The patterns of settlement and dispersion of a population.

*** Migration—A change in residence intended to be permanent.

  • Forced migration—Human migration flows in which the movers have no choice but to relocate.
  • Internal migration—Migration flow within a country.
  • International migration—Migration flow involving movement across an international boundary.
  • Voluntary migration—Population movement in which people relocate in response to perceived opportunity, not because they were forced to migrate.

**** Push-Pull Factors—The idea that migration flows are simultaneously stimulated by perceived conditions in the source area, which tend to drive (push) people away, and by the perceived attractiveness (pull) of the destination.