The credibility of small island overpopulation: A critique of population density maps as a proxy for overpopulation

  • Luis A. Avilés Sociology Program, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez
Keywords: population density ratio, choropleth map, Wikipedia, carrying capacity, research methodology, overpopulation, island, maps


Concerns about overpopulation are still prevalent in many public policy and scientific debates. In many instances, the population density ratio (people/km2 ) is commonly used as a proxy variable for overpopulation, which results in the assertion that small islands and territories are overpopulated. This article takes as a case study a population density choropleth map, within the entry overpopulation of the cyber-encyclopedia Wikipedia, to analyze the use of population density as a proxy for overpopulation. From a theoretical perspective, a definition of overpopulation based on the objectionable concept of carrying capacity is fundamentally flawed. In addition, even on its own terms, the map’s nation-state scale creates a methodological bias since population density is an area weighted formula that provides considerable weight to large scarcely populated national regions. The class intervals of population density are an arbitrary choice that misrepresents the intensity of population density since its cut-off points do not follow an exponential sequence. Both methodological choices consistently represent islands and small territories as extraordinarily dense and therefore overpopulated. This depiction reinforces the imagery of islands and small territories as anomalous places of structural faults. Research claims based on population density as a proxy for overpopulation lack credibility, even according to their own logic.
How to Cite
Avilés, Luis. 1. “The Credibility of Small Island Overpopulation: A Critique of Population Density Maps As a Proxy for Overpopulation”. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 10 (2), 215-31.