population-pyramid-990.jpg

Image courtesy Census Bureau

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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.

National Geographic Bee Competitions

The state competition of the National Geographic Bee was held on March 27 in each state and the District of Columbia. Fifty-one state champs as well as champions from the United States Territories and Department of Defense schools will travel to National Geographic headquarters in Washington D.C. for the national championship on May 11 to 13. View the list of state Bee champions.

The national championship preliminary rounds will take place on Monday, May 11, in Washington, D.C. The national championship final rounds, featuring the top ten finalists and moderated by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien, will be held on Wednesday, May 13, at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. National Geographic Channel will air the final round of the National Geographic Bee Championship at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Friday, May 15, and on Wednesday, May 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Nat Geo WILD. It will also air on public television stations; check local television listings for dates and times.

Gain a Global Perspective

The 2014 National Geographic Bee finalists gush about geography.



How to Help

  • Photo: Geo Bee Winners

    Fund a School

    Donations help fund schools to participate in the National Geographic Bee.

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