Why Do India And China Have So Many People?


India and China, together, are home to over
2.7 billion people. That’s as many humans as in the next 20 most
populous countries combined, or in the whole other 170 countries in the world. Over the last 300 years, India and China each
added more than a billion people to their populations, way more than any other country,
but they have actually been growing at about the same rate as the rest of the world. They have a lot more people today because
they had a lot more people a few hundred years ago, when the world began its period of modern,
and rapid, population growth. It’s like comparing a big bank account and
a small one. If they both grow at about the same rate over
many years, the big one gains a lot more money, simply because it started with more. So the billion-dollar, er, billion-person
question, is why did India and China have so many people when they started their rapid
growth? We can’t know for sure, since so many variables
factor into long-term population dynamics, but the two most plausible explanations are
food and area. Having lots of fertile land and good access
to fresh water makes it possible to grow lots of food, which in turn makes it possible to
nourish a lot of people. Even today, the 10 most populated countries
in the world all have a relatively large amount of farmland. And Asia – and in particular south and east
Asia – has tons of farmland, lots of river valleys, and the ability to grow food year-round. Plus, domestication of plants and animals
essentially started in Asia, giving populations an early leg – or wing – up. As such, Asia’s been the most densely populated
region of the world for a really long time. Area matters too; countries like Pakistan
and Bangladesh may be filled with farms and densely-populated, but because they’re smaller
in area than India and China, they simply cannot contain as many people. Of course, a few other things happened in
India and China in the last few thousand years, and some of them helped the populations grow,
and some of them shrank the populations, but through it all, the large and fertile lands
of India and China were able to sustain lots of people, such that when the era of modern
population growth came around, they had a head start. Or rather, a hundred-million-head start. This video was sponsored by the University
of Minnesota, where students, faculty and staff across all fields of study are working
to solve the Grand Challenges facing society. The Minnesota Population Center is helping
demographic researchers explore past and current trends in world population, the Global Landscapes
Initiative is working to figure out how to keep feeding the world’s growing population
without harming the planet, and the IPUMS Terra project integrates global population
data with data on the environment to better understand how humans transform ecosystems,
and how ecosystems transform humans. Thanks, University of Minnesota!

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