population-pyramid-990.jpg

Image courtesy Census Bureau

Download this activity as a PDF.

Human populations are an important part of the study of geography. Not only are people unevenly distributed on Earth [see Activity #8]; they also vary greatly in terms of age and sex distribution. Some countries, such as Ethiopia, have a young population, meaning that a high percentage of the total population is below the age of 15 years. Other countries, such as Spain, have an aging population, meaning that an increasing percentage of the people are older than 65 years.

Understanding the distribution of population in terms of age and sex is important in understanding a country’s well-being and the challenges it faces.

Constructing Population Pyramids

Distribute copies of the Activity #11 Handout #1 and Handout #2.

Explain that a population pyramid (also called an “age-sex graph”) is a special type of graph that shows the distribution of a location’s population in terms of age groups, called cohorts, and sex. Note that it is best to construct population pyramids using percentages rather than numbers since this makes it possible to compare countries with different size populations.

Have half the class construct a pyramid for Canada and the other half, a pyramid for Bolivia. Beginning at the bottom of the graph, plot the percent of the population that is 0-4 years and male. Shade this bar on the pyramid and repeat for females, using a different color. Repeat this step for each age cohort until the pyramid is complete.

Interpreting Population Pyramids

Have students compare the pyramids for Canada and Bolivia. How are the similar? How are they different?

Data From U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base

Which age group is largest in each country? How might this affect the quality of life in each country? What challenges might this age distribution create for each country?

To learn more about interpreting population pyramids, visit Population Reference Bureau.

Data for other countries, as well as for states and even counties is available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Related

  • 2014 National Geographic Geography Bee Finals with Virginia eighth grader Akhil Rekulapelli (right) and TUyua Bergson-Michelson (left)

    School Registration

    Get a reminder to register on September 15, 2014.

  • 2014 National Geographic Geography Bee Final with Virginia eighth grader Akhil Rekulapelli (left), Soledad O'Brien (center) and Ameya Mujumdar.

    National Geo Bee Champ Named

    A Virginia eighth grader trekked to the top spot of the 2014 National Geography Bee.

  • geobee-channelshow-990x742.jpg

    Watch the 2014 Geo Bee Online

    Did you miss the show, or want to hear the questions again? View the final round of the National Geographic Bee held on May 21, 2014.

  • geobee-ace-160.jpg

    How to Ace the National Geographic Bee

    The National Geographic Bee is this May. Are you ready? Learn how to prepare for the competition with How to Ace the National Geographic Bee, which includes a variety of questions actually used in past Bees, and The National Geographic Bee Ultimate Fact Book: Countries A-Z, chock-full of all the facts kids need to know to become a geography expert.

  • Photo: GeoBee video screenshot

    Only One Champion

    Each year students travel from across the United States to Washington, D.C. to compete in the ultimate test of geographic knowledge: the National Geographic Bee.

Quizzes to Go

  • Photo:  Screenshot from GeoBee Challenge HD for iPad

    Now on Your Favorite Mobile Device!

    Do you have what it takes to be the next National Geographic Bee Champion? Find out the fun way with the new GeoBee Challenge! Three types of game play make sure you really know your stuff and never get bored.

Google Earth Presents

  • google-video-990.jpg

    Hello World

    Virtually travel anywhere with the Google Earth team before you actually hit the ground. Geography does matter!

Download Google Earth »

Student Activities

Teachers can use these activities in the classroom to prepare students for the bee!

  • Photo: Map of the world showing areas of freshwater

    Geo-Scavenger Hunt

    Simply memorizing terms and place locations can be tedious and even boring. One solution is to make the task fun with an atlas-based scavenger game.

  • Photo: Map of languages

    Exploring Diffusion

    The movement of people, goods, or ideas from one place to another is a process known as diffusion, which plays an important role in shaping the characteristics of where we live.

  • Photo: Infared satellite image of hurricane Rita

    Tracking Violent Storms

    Springtime brings the possibility of extreme weather, including violent thunderstorms and tornadoes.

See More From the Study Corner »