Factors Affecting Population Distribution: Physical, Socio-economic, Demographic and Political Factors

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Factors Affecting Population Distribution: Physical, environmental, demographic, and socioeconomic are some of the factors affecting distribution of population. The spatial pattern of population dispersal, agglomeration development, linear population spreads, etc., is known as population distribution. The geographic distribution of the population varies greatly by region in most nations. Varied regions of the world have different population densities. The seven continents contain a significant portion of the world’s population.

India’s population is anticipated to increase for a while. It is anticipated that it will increase to 1.5 billion in 2030 and 1.7 billion in 2050, whilst China’s population is anticipated to remain stable and gradually decline. India has surpassed China to become the most populous country in the world. In this article, you will comprehend the major factors affecting population distribution in detail.

Factors Affecting Population Distribution

Climate, landforms, terrain, soil, energy and mineral resources, accessibility in terms of distance from the shore, natural harbors, navigable rivers or canals, etc., are the primary physical factors affecting population distribution. Socioeconomic determinants include cultural traits, economic activity, technology (including farming practices), and social structure.

Factors Affecting Population Distribution PDF

Migration and changes brought on by natural growth are examples of demographic factors. Political variables include political boundaries, political stability (or unrest), disturbances, restrictions on immigration and trade, governmental regulations, and transportation infrastructure.

Distribution of Population

The population distribution over the world’s surface is not uniform. Physical surroundings differ from one location to another. Demographers must therefore comprehend how and where populations are distributed. A demographer’s job includes projections for the future and the spatial distribution of the population today.

It is possible to predict the increase (or potential reduction) in the global population as well as the spatial distribution of that population by knowing certain patterns and the elements that significantly impact population density and the total population. It will then be possible for decision-makers to design the best environmental protection laws and strategies, develop sustainable development plans, and prepare for changes with shifting demographics. The Factors Affecting Population Distribution may broadly be grouped into the following major categories:

  • Physical factors;
  • Socio-economic factors;
  • Demographic factors;
  • Political factors.

Physical Factors Affecting Population Distribution

Man chooses to shape space following his cultural ideals; as a result, habitations vary in reaction to environmental cues. He interacts with the natural environment through settlements, which are the actual physical manifestations of an ideal world. The Physical Factors Affecting Population Distribution are:


  • One of the most significant natural factors is the climate. It determines the regional flora and fauna’s characteristics and impacts agriculture.
  • The main hubs of the majority of human activity are the climatic belts. The world’s population distribution makes it clear that the most populous nations are primarily found in tropical areas.
  • On the other hand, regions with harsh climatic conditions are typically sparsely populated because it is challenging to maintain human existence there.
  • The populations of temperate countries are similarly high.
  • The least populated areas are still the polar regions of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic.


  • More people live in navigable areas than in undeveloped ones. A shortage of arable land makes mountains less desirable.
  • High elevations generally have a physiological impact on people’s ability to adapt. Reduced air pressure and low oxygen levels are to blame for this.
  • Coastal regions and low-lying plains are more favorable for human habitation.
  • While the Ganges valley is one of the world’s most heavily populated regions, the Himalayas are sparsely populated.


  • A human being needs water to survive. The world’s prehistoric civilizations thrived in locations close to rivers and the coast.
  • On their banks, the Nile, Amazon, and Ganges river systems supported wealthy civilizations because it is an important aspect of population distribution.
  • A place’s fitness for habitation is determined by the amount of rainfall it receives, which benefits agriculture and vegetation.
  • Large swaths of the desert are uninhabitable due to a lack of water. The rain-shadow side of a hill or mountain has less population for the same reason; nonetheless, the leeward side is frequently thickly populated.


  • Soil quality influences the density and distribution of the population. Agriculture, which depends on good soil, provides a living for a sizeable portion of the people.
  • The soil is one of the most vital raw materials the people need because it is where food crops are grown.
  • High population densities can be seen in India’s coastal regions, deltas, and alluvial regions.
  • On the other hand, dense populations cannot be supported in hilly areas where soil erosion is an issue, such as the Terai region of Uttarakhand or the sandy soils of the Rajasthani desert.

Mineral Resources

  • Huge mineral resource deposits aided in the development of industry, which drew settlements. Mineral resources abound on the Chhota Nagpur plateau.
  • The abundance of minerals is a major factor in the greater population densities in the Jharkhand region’s Chhota Nagpur Plateau and the nearby districts of Orissa.


  • Natural disasters make population concentration less desirable.
  • As people move to safer locations, frequent storms, earthquakes, floods, and wildfires inhibit the creation of towns.

Socio-Economic Factors Affecting Population Distribution

Natural processes typically influence the decision to settle. But over time, man has been able to modify and partially regulate natural processes. As a result, factors other than natural elements are considered when deciding where to settle. As human society evolved and requirements changed, social and economic viewpoints became more important. The Socio-Economic Factors Affecting Population Distribution are:

Economic Activity

  • Employment opportunities can be determined by economic activity. It is a crucial factor in deciding the distribution of the population.
  • The majority of rural residents rely on agriculture for their living. They may decide to relocate to cities if the land cannot maintain the rural people or because urban regions provide more opportunities.
  • The concentration of people in cities results from the wide range of economic opportunities and means of subsistence that cities provide.
  • As a result, urban and suburban populations are generally denser than rural areas, and this trend is expected to continue. By their very nature, cities offer various employment options in both the formal and unofficial sectors.
  • Industries have long attracted inexpensive labor since they are a significant source of employment.

Social Organization

  • People are encouraged to travel about and settle in newer places by the social organization of communities in those areas.
  • Being a social animal, man finds it necessary to establish a society and establish a comfortable home base.
  • People who relocate tend to settle in locations (or subsets of areas) where others share their language, culture, eating preferences, and other habits.

Demographic Factors Affecting Distribution of Population

The characteristics of the population, known as demographic factors, have a significant impact on settlement patterns and population dispersion. These include migration, death, and fertility patterns. Together, fertility and death impact a region’s natural population growth. Population density and dispersion change throughout time due to the different growth rates caused by fertility and mortality.


  • The distribution of the population is greatly impacted by migration. People are frequently inspired to relocate to newer areas by push forces, or unfavorable conditions, in their local communities.
  • Furthermore, migration is encouraged by better prospects in other areas.
  • The primary motivators of migration from rural to urban areas are frequent expectations of a higher living level.
  • The migration process allows redistribution of population, but it also puts pressure on the location of the destination and raises the population density in this place

Population Increase

  • The net result of fertility and mortality in a region is a natural increase.
  • The population of a place tends to grow if the fertility rate is high there. Because people die under these circumstances, mortality brings stability.
  • Disease and epidemics have always had a big impact on mortality rates.
  • Many ailments could be healed thanks to medical advancements, dramatically decreasing the death rate.
  • In reality, the population increased. But this led to issues with high population density and demand for scarce resources.

Political Factors Affecting Population Distribution

Factors such as political boundaries, disturbances, political stability (or unrest), controls on migration and trade, government policies, and transportation facilities are viewed as political factors. War, political disturbance, conflict, and weak administration negatively affect population distribution.

Political Turmoil

  • Discrimination and political upheaval are harmful to population growth.
  • Before making a permanent move, the migratory population looks for a destination that offers economic prospects and a secure and healthful atmosphere for life.
  • Both of these prerequisites cannot be met in a politically insecure area, which deters the arriving migrant population and the local population, which may be compelled to leave the area in search of calm places to settle.


  • Human lives are severely sacrificed in war and political disputes. People are compelled to leave their homes in search of safety because of the high death rates.
  • Mortality rates reach their peak, and emigration takes over.
  • The influx of migrants causes a large population expansion in safer areas.

Government Policies

  • Population growth in the destination region has frequently resulted from policies promoting migration.
  • International labor movements occur in countries with lax regulations controlling cross-border migration.
  • Population redistribution is aided by migration.
  • Policies encouraging reduced reproduction rates, the outlawing of infanticide, etc., also impact population growth.

Factors Influencing Population Distribution

The distribution and expansion of populations, whether they are densely populated or sparsely populated, cannot be attributed to a single cause. Technology advancements have allowed humanity to colonize areas that were previously inaccessible. Due to the world’s rapid population expansion, many people have been compelled to relocate to areas that are inhospitable and lacking in sufficient natural resources.

Most of the time, people are forced to reside in certain places. Prior to the industrial revolution and the ensuing urbanization, physical considerations dictated where people lived; however, these networks of transportation and communication have grown as a result. Population distribution was affected by these developments. This makes the current population density map an accumulation of the past.

Factors Affecting Population Distribution UPSC

There are 4 major factors affecting population distribution, namely, Geographical Factors, Social Factors, Cultural Factors, and Economic Factors. Population distribution is about how individuals are spread across the earth. Candidates must read about Factors Affecting Population Distribution which comes under the Geography syllabus for UPSC Exam.

Population Distribution is calculated as the population divided by the area. To cover the topic comprehensively for the exam, students can refer to Geography Books for UPSC which will help them to fetch good marks in GS papers.

Factors Affecting Population Distribution MCQs

Question: What do you mean by the term density of population of a country? (A) Number of people living per one square kilometer, (B) The average number of deaths per annum, (C) The average number of births per annum, (D) None of the above
Answer: Number of people living per one square kilometer

Question: Consider the statements: (1) Density of population is the ratio between the number of people to the size of land, (2) It is usually measured in persons per sq km. Which is / are correct? (A) Both 1 and 2, (B) Only 2, (C) Only 1, (D) None of the above
Answer: Both 1 and 2

Question: Which are geographical factors influencing distribution of population? (1) Landforms, (2) Availability of water, (3) Climate, (4) Soils, (5) Urbanisation – (A) Only 1,2,4,and 5; (B) Only 1,3,4, and 5; (C) Only 1,2,3, and 4; (D) All of the above
Answer: Only 1, 3, 4, and 5

Question: Consider the following: (1) Minerals, (2) Urbanisation, (3) Industralisation, (4) Soils. Which are economic factors influencing distribution of population? – (A) Only 1,2, and 4; (B) Only 1,3, and 4; (C) Only 1,2, and 3; (D) All of the above
Answer: Only 1,2, and 3

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