Reader Post: Gaza The Most Densely Populated Area On The Planet?

“Gaza is the most densely populated area on the planet!”

gaza cityIn almost every discussion about the conflict, eventually you will hear this argument. So I decided to look at the facts:

Area of Gaza: 139 square miles (360 square Km)
Population of Gaza: 1.81 million
Population density (rounding): 13,000 per square mile (5,000 per square Km)

So how does 13,000 people per square mile compare? (still rounding):

Tel Aviv: 20,000 people per square mile (how ironic)
Jerusalem: 16,000 people per square mile (still ironic)
Boston: 13,000 people per square mile
Madrid: 14,000 people per square mile
Hong Kong: 17,000 people per square mile
NY City: 27,000 people per square mile

Gaza does not show up even in the top 50 cities of the world in terms of density. The city with the highest density is Manila with 111,000 people per square mile, far far higher than Gaza.

By the way, the cynical comparison is many times made between Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto. Here is its density back then: 114,000 people per square mile!

About Mauricio Korbman

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  • Alja Gerschman-Meijer

    Great post!!!

  • Art Deco

    The rainfall in the Gaza strip is sparse enough (< 16 in per annum in all parts of the strip, lower as one moves toward the southwest) that you'd devote it to extensive activities like raising livestock if there were not residential construction thereupon. Agriculture is not an option, so you're not going to have much of a rural population. Look at Nevada: 83% of the population lives in three cities. If Gaza's to be anything but a vacuum of international welfare payments, its future lies as a trade entrepot and banking center with (perhaps) some manufacturing. Of course, the local population would have to take an interest in that.

    • topposter

      I’m pretty sure I recall reading that before 2005, Gaza was one of, if not the most productive agricultural centers in the middle east. Of course, that’s a distinction that is difficult to maintain when you destroy greenhouses and build underground tunnels.

      • Art Deco

        If it’s taking place in greenhouses, it’s horticulture. There would have to be considerable irrigation to grow crops in an area as arid as the Gaza strip.

        • Mauricio Korbman

          Maybe they can stop firing rockets at their neighbors and ask them how to make the desert bloom.

        • topposter

          That’s the first I’ve heard that definition of horticulture. Irrigation is no problem, Gaza is not landlocked. I’m sure the Qatari’s would be happy to finance a desalination plant. Local experts could run irrigation lines through tunnels :)

          We are talking Gaza here, not Negev:

          • Art Deco

            I’m sure the Qatari’s would be happy to finance a desalination plant.

            You’d likely only do that if you had money to burn. I doubt you could ever make a business case for agriculture on land of that calibre. For all our technical sophistication (and extensive irrigation infrastructure), it is not done much in the Western United States, which is dominated by ranching. It’s only where you get into areas with a Mediterranean climate like California that you see fruiticulture (undertaken with subsidized water)

  • Brad_Brzezinski

    This is a bit misleading because it treats Gaza like one big city whereas it has (WikiP) 8 major centers containing 1.35m of its people. In between there are presumably villages for the rest. (The 1.8m is quite likely to be inflated as I believe UNRWA is allocated finds on a per capita basis …. if you get my drift. I assume it is accurate for the rest of the calcs.)

    WikiP gives areas for 5 of the pop centers and a quick calculation says that the 1.13m people in those towns live at an average density of 22.4k/Sq Mi and the rest of the 1.8m live at an average density of 7.7k/sq mi. Some of these will be at higher densities and some at very low densities.

    • daralherb


      And if we compare the largest sqKM cities in the world, Gaza doesn’t make the top 125:

    • Mauricio Korbman

      The fact is that there is an area of a certain size to accommodate a population of a certain size. Go ahead an build in other areas and spread your population. Don’t make it appear as though they live in a box with no where to go. And by the way, the UNRWA website says “more than 1.5 million people” other sites have it around the 1.8 million. But, if it is the 1.5mill then it is even less densely populated.

      • dabney

        And don’t make it appear as though Hamas has nowhere else to set up shop.

    • Art Deco

      Only a small fraction of the land in the former mandatory Palestine has been held in fee simple tenures. The Jewish National Fund holds a bloc (equal to 13% of Israel within the 1949 armistice lines) and the rest is state land. The Jewish National Fund and the State of Israel have now abandoned any land they held in the Gaza strip. I’ll wager very little of that rural land is actually owned by any private party. It’s not built on because of policy failures.

      Again, the land is not productive for primary sector activities. Low density ranching is what you can do with it, so the opportunity cost of building on it is low.

      I would not expect any people to behave like those in Hong Kong or Singapore (or Bahrain, while we’re at it). Still, after decades of UNRWA doles, and after much emigration, I imagine that particular population is peculiarly ill-suited to the sort of development which took place in these other loci. Be nice to be surprised. Of course, for it to happen, they have to take an interest in something other than burning down their neighbor’s house.

  • daralherb

    Gaza is kinda like a ghettoized version of Logan’s Run. Instead of lives being limited to when you reach 30 only to be terminated in a quasi-religious ceremony known as Carousel, the age varies and the ceremony is Jihad.

  • unpluggged

    I made the same point a while ago in a comment to Naftali Bennet’s video where some news anchor kept repeating this bullshit:

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