DESK REVIEWS | 01.01.02. Key geographical and demographic characteristics

DESK REVIEW | 01.01.02. Key geographical and demographic characteristics

Brazil’s geography is mostly continental, with a few small islands that are economically and geographically closely connected with the mainland. The five geographic regions in the country are different in terms of demography. For instance, while the southeast region (that covers 11% of the Brazilian territory) accounts for 43% of the population and 56% of the gross domestic product; the north region (containing most of the Amazon forest) is the second poorest region, after the northeast region, and has the lowest population density (3.9 people per Km2) (Paim et al., 2011). In general, Brazil has a population density of 24.66 inhabitants per square kilometre. Around 76% of the Brazilian population live in urban areas which correspond to 26% of the municipalities; whereas about 60% of the municipalities are considered rural and encompass 17% of the population (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, 2012).



Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. (2012). Nova proposta de classificacao territorial mostra um brasil menos urbano.

Paim, J., Travassos, C., Almeida, C., Bahia, L., & Macinko, J. (2011). The Brazilian health system: History, advances, and challenges. The Lancet, 377(9779), 1778–1797.

The population density of India has increased from 324 persons per square kilometer in 2001 to 382 persons per square kilometers in 2011 (Census of India, 2011), which is an increase of 57 more people per square kilometer (Census of India, 2011). With respect to urban and rural population distribution, the Census of 2011 reports that from the total population of 1.2 billion, the rural and urban population accounted for 833.5 million (68.8%) and 377.1 million (31.2%), respectively (Chandramouli, 2011).


Census of India. (2011). Density of India. Available from

Chandramouli, C. (2011). RURAL URBAN DISTRIBUTION OF POPULATION: Provisional Population Totals. Available from

According to Indonesia’s National Coordinating Agency for Survey and Mapping, the Republic of Indonesia stretches over an archipelago of 13,466 islands out of which 922 are permanently inhabited. However, there is some debate regarding the exact number of islands (Hidayat, 2017). The five largest islands are Papua, Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi (Adam et al., 2019; Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia Washington DC, 2017). The country has a tropical climate, with hot and humid weather all year long (CIA World Factbook, 2019).

The majority of the population is concentrated on the islands of Java and Sumatra (CIA World Factbook, 2019). Java, one of the world’s most densely populated island, houses the majority of the Indonesian population, despite only covering 7% of the total land territory of the country (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2017). Just over half of the Indonesian population (55.3% in 2018) is estimated to live in urban areas. The largest urban areas are the capital Jakarta (10.517 million, 2018) Bekasi (3.2 million), Surabaya (2.9 million), Bandung (2.5 million), Medan (2.3 million), and Tangerang (2.22 million) (CIA World Factbook, 2019).


Adam, A. W., Wolters, O. W., Mohamad, G. S., Legge, J. D., McDivitt, J. F., & Leinbach, T. R. (2019). Indonesia.

CIA World Factbook. (2019). Indonesia.

Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia Washington DC. (2017). Facts & Figures.

Hidayat, R. (2017, June 7). Indonesia counts its islands to protect territory and resources.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2017). Java. Encyclopædia Britannica.

Geographically and administratively, the country is divided into 47 counties. Since 2013, each county is responsible for county legislation and executive functions transferred from the national government.


Mexico’s territory covers 1.9 million square kilometres of continental surface, 5,127 square kilometres of island surface, and 3.1 million square kilometres of exclusive zone in the oceans, resulting in a total area exceeding five million squared kilometres. The country shares a 5,000-kilometre border in the North with the United States, and in the South, Mexico shares an 871-kilometre border with Guatemala and a 251-kilometre border with Belize. Geopolitically, Mexico is generally considered to be part of North America.

Almost all the country’s territory is on the North American Plate, with small parts of the Baja California Peninsula in the Northwest on the Pacific and Cocos Plates. Situated atop three of the large tectonic plates that constitute the Earth’s surface, Mexico is one of the most seismologically active regions on Earth. The motions of these plates cause earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Mexican Territory gave rise to numerous mountain systems, mainly the Sierra Madre Oriental, Sierra Madre Occidental, Sierra Madre del Sur, and the Cordillera Neovolcánica or Eje Volcánico Transversal (Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt). In the country, much of the volcanic activity is related to the subduction zone formed by the tectonic plates of Rivera and Cocos in contact with the great North American plate and has its volcanic expression in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. These are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, also called the Circum-Pacific Belt that surrounds the Pacific and gives the area a continuous high volcanic activity.

Population density

According to the 2010 Census (INEGI, 2010b), 78% of the total population lived in urban areas and 22% in rural areas (rural populations are defined as localities with less than 2,500 inhabitants, and urban localities as those with total population of 2,500 or above). In 1950 just under 43% of the population in Mexico lived in urban areas, by 1990 it was 71% and by 2010 this figure increased to almost 78% (INEGI, 2010b).

In 2010 the population density at national level was estimated at 57.3 inhabitants per square kilometre, this increased to 61 by 2015. The capital of the country, Mexico City, stands out with the highest density at 5,967 inhabitants/km2, followed by the state of Mexico, with a density of 724 inhabitants/km2. On the other hand, the populations with the lowest number of inhabitants per square kilometre are Baja California Sur with 10 and Durango with 14 inhabitants/km2 (INEGI, 2010b, 2015c).

[1] Data presented is a summary of the following sources: INEGI. 2008. Referencias geográficas y extensión territorial de México, INEGI: Mexico; López de Llergo, R. Principales rasgos geográficos de la República Mexicana. Investigaciones Geográficas, Boletín del Instituto de Geografía, UNAM No. 50, 2003, pp. 26-41; the Mexican Geological System ( )


INEGI. (2010b). Principales resultados del Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010. In Principales resultados del Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010. (Vol. 1).

INEGI. (2015c). Mortalidad. Esperanza de vida al nacimiento por entidad federativa.