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140 years of Europe's changing population, mapped

European population trends over a 141-year timespan show us how much Europe has changed and is still changing, just like everywhere else in the world. Consider first population density between 1870 and 2000, courtesy of the University of Lleida:


University of Lleida: While England, Germany, Italy, and Poland saw dramatic growth rates between 1870 and 2000, the population of countries like Spain, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland grew more slowly.

A new map published by the German Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs, and Spatial Development displays trends between 2001 and 2011, including those in southeastern Europe (h/t CityMetric):

BSSR Map of population shifts in European countries, 2001-2011.

BSSR map of population shifts in European countries, 2001 to 2011. The redder the region, the higher rate of population growth; the bluer, the higher rate of population decline (yellow regions stayed about the same). Eastern Germany, western Spain, and southeastern countries such as Hungary and Romania, south to Greece and east toward Bulgaria and Turkey, lost more inhabitants than they gained between 2001 and 2011. Meanwhile, France, the United Kingdom, and northern Italy's growth rates were either consistent or increased over that time.

Despite regional efforts toward continental political and economic stability, Europe is shifting its people around, ever the same. Population density trends provide us a window into political, economic, or other sociodemographic changes — the kinds of events that are more difficult to show on a map. What these rate changes don't tell us about is total population. The above maps aren't total population growth rates, just how much the regions changed over time.

Population changes aren't total population trends

Since some countries are smaller in geographic size and population, it's easier for those nations to appear to have dramatic changes that don't correlate to total population. Compare Ireland, which looks like a bright red spot in the above map, with France, which appears to have had slightly less population growth. France actually gained about 4 million new residents between 2001 and 2011, while Ireland gained fewer than 1 million. Ireland's rate of change was still higher, even though France attracted more new residents, as World Bank data shows:

Europe's reflects global population shifts of the 21st century 

Europe is just one of many regions with continued population changes. It's not a matter of whether people are still moving around; it's a matter of who is moving and why:

Number of International Migrants Grows in the U.S. and Around the World

Pew Research Center study, 2013.

As Pew researchers noted in 2013, the sum of international migrants as a percentage of total global population has remained the same since 1990:

"...the total number of international migrants rose from 154 million in 1990 to 232 million in 2013 – but remained steady as a 3% share of the globe’s growing population."

As we write the next decade of human history, we already know what that chapter will entail — and we're about to inhabit a much more crowded planet soon.