In the field of population studies, two key concepts used to understand the spatial patterns of human populations are the distribution of population and the density of population. While they both provide insights into the spatial aspects of human populations, they differ in their focus and interpretation.

Table: Difference between the Distribution of Population and Density of Population

Distribution of PopulationDensity of Population
Refers to the spatial arrangement or pattern of population across a specific area. It examines how individuals or households are distributed within a given region.Refers to the number of people per unit of land area, usually expressed as individuals per square kilometer or square mile. It measures the concentration or crowding of people in a specific area.
Focuses on the dispersion or clustering of population within a region, including the arrangement of settlements and the pattern of population centers.Focuses on the intensity of population within a given area, providing a measure of population concentration and the level of crowding in a specific geographic space.
Considers factors such as distance to amenities, availability of resources, historical development, and transportation networks that influence the spatial distribution of population.Considers the total population size and the area over which the population is distributed to calculate the average population density. It helps understand the pressure on resources and infrastructure in a particular area.
Provides insights into the spatial inequalities in population distribution, identifying regions with high or low population density and the associated social, economic, and environmental implications.Provides insights into the level of population concentration, which can have implications for urban planning, resource allocation, infrastructure development, and the provision of services in densely populated areas.
Examples of distribution patterns include clustered (agglomeration of settlements), dispersed (scattered settlements), linear (along transportation routes), and nucleated (settlements around a central point).Examples of population density include sparsely populated areas with low population density (e.g., remote rural regions) and densely populated areas with high population density (e.g., urban centers).

Conclusion: In summary, the distribution of population focuses on the spatial arrangement and pattern of the population across a region, while the density of population measures the concentration or crowding of people within a specific area.

The distribution of the population considers factors influencing the dispersion of the population, while density of population reflects the intensity of population concentration. Understanding both concepts is crucial for analyzing social, economic, and environmental dynamics in different regions and supporting effective planning and resource management.



POPULATION DENSITY refers to the number of people living in an area per square km.

In East Africa, some places have got high population density while others have got low population density.

Causes of high population density (why some areas have high population e.g. Shores of Lake Victoria, Kabale, Mbale and along the coast)

  • prefer living in areas with milder temperatures and more predictable weather patterns. For example, areas with warm climates and abundant sunshine, such as coastal regions, may have a higher population density than colder, more mountainous regions. Additionally, areas with reliable rainfall and fertile soil can also have a higher population density as it can be a good condition for agriculture. People tend to move to areas with a climate that is comfortable for them and that can support their way of life, whether it be farming, tourism, or other industries.
  • The presence of deep and well-drained fertile soils that support farming also attract a large number of people e.g. Kabale and Mbale.

  • Availability of abundant supply water for both domestic and commercial use e.g. Kampala and Nairobi.
  • Presence of many industries that attract a large labour force e.g. in Jinja and Dar-es-salaam.
  • Availability of a variety of minerals such as Diamonds in Shinyanga and limestone in Tororo.
  • Urbanization attracts many migrants into large cities for social amenities e.g. in Dodoma, Kampala, and Mombasa. This can lead to high population density in urban areas because as more people move to cities, the population in those cities increases. Urbanization can be driven by a number of factors, such as economic opportunities, access to amenities, and political stability. Urban areas often have more job opportunities, higher wages, and better access to education and healthcare than rural areas. Urban areas also tend to have more diverse cultures and social opportunities, which can attract people to move there. Urbanization can also be driven by government policies that encourage or facilitate the growth of cities. Urbanization can also be driven by the increase of the service sector and the technological advancements that made possible to do remote works.
  • Easy accessibility due to well-developed transport and communication net work for easy movement. This is because good transportation infrastructure, such as roads, public transportation systems, and airports, makes it easier for people to move around and access job opportunities, amenities, and other resources. This can attract more people to live in the area, increasing the population density. Additionally, good transportation infrastructure can also make it easier for goods and services to be transported in and out of an area, which can further boost economic development and attract more people to live there.

  • Availability of a relatively flat landscape makes settlement and development of infrastructures relatively easy hence attracting large settlements.
  • Migrations patterns: High population densities can also result from migrations patterns, as people move to different areas in search of better economic opportunities or other factors.
  • Political stability: Regions with political stability tend to have higher population densities as people feel more secure in these areas.
  • Cultural and historical significance: Places with cultural or historical significance may attract more people and have higher population densities.
  • Limited resources: In areas with limited resources, such as small islands, population density may be high due to the need to make efficient use of land and other resources.


POPULATION DENSITY refers to the number of people living in an area per square km.

In East Africa, some placeslike Nairobi, Kilimanjaro region and around lake Victoria have got high population density while other places like dodoma and rukwa regions in Tanzania and northern part of Kenya have got low population density

Causes of low population density (why some areas have low population e.g. Karamoja, Ankole-Masaka corridor, Masai land and Turkana land)

  • Low and unreliable rainfall that cannot favour agriculture e.g. the desert region of Chalbi in northern Kenya. Rainfall influence agriculture by providing water for crops therefore area that have low and unreliable rainfall have few people per square kilometre as compared to areas with heavy and reliable rainfall
  • Hot temperatures of 300C and above that make it impossible for many people to live in such areas e.g. in Karamoja. Areas with high temperature does not attract people to live there while the areas with moderate temperature attract settlement. Therefore areas with high temperature such as karamoja and northern part of Kenya have low population density as compared to areas with moderate temperature such as areas around mount Kenya.
  • Absence of surface water that is essential for human life e.g. in Masai land.

  • Poor quality soils that can’t support agriculture tend to scare away settlements e.g. Miombo woodlands.
  • Pests and diseases such as tsetse flies and mosquitoes in some parts of central Tanzania scare away man due to fear of losing his life.
  • The remoteness of the area hinders accessibility due to poor transport and communication lines.
  • Limited economic activities mean that jobs are not existent.
  • Limited social services scare away people.


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