Mapping The Most Crazily Jam-Packed Places On Earth

Humanity’s future involves living in densely populated cities. This interactive map lets you see exactly where people already do, and where people still have room to stretch their arms.

We’ve all read the statistics: The world’s population is ballooning, and most of those people are living in cities, packing denser and denser. In the not-so-distant future, most of us will live piled on top of one another in tight-quartered urban spaces.


But today, despite the fact that more than half the world’s population lives in cities, we’re still fairly spread out. This interactive map by Derek Watkins lets you play around with just how many people are living together at different densities around the world. Here, for instance, is everywhere in the world with a density of 15 people per square kilometer or greater:

As you can see, this covers most of the planet, except for major deserts (and, of course, the ocean). But as you start to get into higher densities, the picture changes drastically. At the 100-people-per-square-kilometer level, the world looks like a much different place:

In the U.S., you can see the Boston-to-D.C. megalopolis on the East Coast, along with some dense pockets around Los Angeles and a few other cities. Besides a cluster around Rio de Janiero, South America is almost completely gone, as is most of sub-Saharan Africa. Europe, the Middle East, and most of Asia are still there. At 250 people per square kilometer, the changes are even more drastic:

In the Western Hemisphere, only New York, Mexico City, and Rio even register.

At the maximum density the map allows (500 people per square kilometer), we can see where people are living the urban future today. It’s mostly in northern India and coastal China. Watkins is using large swaths of land to make these density counts–many urban centers that have disappeared at the 500-people-per-square-kilometer level (like, say, New York) have densities in the thousands of people per square kilometer in some places. But the map still paints a picture of where the new city-focused revolution is already taking place.

Scroll through the map yourself for more detailed views, or watch the video below, which shows a slow animation of the entire thing. And contemplate that, while your city may not appear on the densest version of this map, it probably will soon.

From 5 to 500, population density change per square kilometer.

About the author

Morgan is a senior editor at Fast Company. He edits the Ideas section, formerly