The COVID-19 pandemic reminds people that crowded cities have distinct disadvantages, beyond those that are obvious. The omicron variant has aggressively spread at an unimaginable rate, and people in close quarters have suffered the effects brutally.
Areas with very high population density often have other troubles as well, including pollution, lack of clean water, and the trouble of providing services to areas where people literally live on top of one another. The most densely populated city in the world is Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The U.S. does not have cities that rank among the most densely populated in the world, but it can help highlight the extremes. While New Jersey has almost 1,200 residents per square mile, Alaska has 1.2 people per square mile. (This is the largest state in America.)
Using data on population density, population, and land area in global urban areas from the June 2021 edition of the World Urban Areas report from Demographia, an urban development research group, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most densely populated city in the world. Only areas with 500,000 residents were considered. The yardstick was based on the average number of people per square mile living in a given urban area.
To make our decision, cities were not ranked on their official municipal boundaries, but rather, the built-up land areas that, as described in the report, “function as an integrated economic unit, linked together by commuting flows, social and economic interactions.” By this definition, the New York City area has a population density of 4,477 people per square mile. However, the borough of Manhattan alone has a population density of 70,826 people per square mile.
Several of the most densely populated cities in the world are located in Africa and South America. However, the majority of cities on this list are in Asia, including over two dozen in India. No U.S. cities made the list.
Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the most densely populated cities in the world are also some of the most populous cities, home to over 10 million people. (This is America’s largest city.)
The most densely populated city in the world, Dhaka, Bangladesh, is home to 16.8 million residents who live in 176 square miles. The area’s population density is 95,676 people per square mile.