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I was recently plunking down some population density figures into a spreadsheet for further study and simply using figures found on individual Wikipedia country pages. I wasn't really paying attention to them until I got to Equatorial Guinea, which didn't list a population density figure in its infobox. So, I thought, How hard can this be? I'll just do a quick math calculation of my own and then I'll have the population density figure.

After doing this, however, the number I came up with made me wonder if it was correct. I then discovered that population density figures for Equatorial Guinea varied from one source to another. Some examples (using density per square mile) are listed below:

20 (no year given, but the page cites the Census Bureau and was posted in 2016)

62 (2009) (Source: Wikipedia article on "List of countries by population density")

73 (Source: a 1991 Census Bureau publication titled, "World Population Profile: 1991" containing a projection for 2020)

150 (2010) (Source: Wikipedia article on "List of countries and territories by population density," which cites Guinea Ecuatorial)

When I attempted to do the calculations myself, I worked with two figures -- the area and the population -- using 10,830 sq. mi. for the area and a population figure of 1.2 million. Unless my math is wrong, that would equate to a population density of 110.8. As you can see, all of this has left me wondering whether or not I should just use my own calculation or attempt to find a consistent, reputable source. What would you recommend?

If you recommend finding a reputable source, which sources consistently do the best job of calculating population statistics and is there any sort of independent review board that rates the various entities publishing these statistics?

Also, while on the topic, I have a feeling that some variance may exist in how population densities are derived. For example, large parts of some countries are desert (Libya) and others have suffered severe damage due to man-made/natural disasters such as the burning of oil fields (Kuwait) or flooding (Bangladesh). Is total land area still used in the calculation for such areas? Does flooding increase the % water a country is considered to have? Are bodies of water included in the total land area for a country and subsequently used as the calculation for population density?

Thanks in advance to any who have insight/expertise on this topic and can share it with us.

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Depends on what areas are used. There is nothing wrong with doing this country by country. However, in cities, the local population density is high but not so outside of them. In general, I would use an easy button, as lots of people have had this same question and done a lot of work on it.

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    $\begingroup$ I like your idea, @Carl. My "easy button" this time turned out to be focusing on other aspects of my study, but your "easy button" looks very interesting. I look forward to experimenting with it in the future. Thank you for sharing it with us. $\endgroup$
    – Lisa Beck
    Dec 19, 2016 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ I feel good about helping. All compliments warmly received. I liked your question, too. (+1) $\endgroup$
    – Carl
    Dec 19, 2016 at 0:13

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