Discover the New Worldmapper
Worldmapper has a new website with many updated and new maps:
Our archive currently encounters some technical problems. If you are searching for an old map and don't find it on our new website, please contact us.
We also need your support to keep Worldmapper up and running.


Search for a map:


1. You have found a mistake
2. Map questions
3. PDF Poster questions
4. Data file questions
5. Technical notes questions
6. Chart questions
7. Data questions
8. Copyright
9. Making your own maps/requesting maps
10. Help

1 You have found a mistake:

Maps, posters and files are put on the website after initial checking before going through a series of further checks. Most errors will probably be corrected within a month of their first appearance. Currently all maps etc. can be changed if errors are found. Please let us know (email of any particular mistakes requiring your expert knowledge to spot or if you think you have spotted an error that we have missed. See section 7.6 about data errors.

2 About the Maps:

The 'About Worldmapper ' page gives a general introduction.

Q. What are all these strange maps?
A. They are cartograms, where the territories have been re-sized according to a variable. See the 'About Worldmapper ' page for more details.

Q. Why do you use the term 'territory'? Why not 'country'?
A. Most of our territories are considered independent countries, and all 191 recognised by the United Nations are included. However, we include some other territories that, whilst not recognised as independent by the United Nations, might consider themselves to have some degree of independence. Some of the territories we include may not be recognised as independent countries by other territories. Our main criteria in including a territory is that it is distinct enough for us to obtain data for that territory. For further details, see Appendices A (Areas included) and B (Islands Assigned to Territories).

Q. What do the colours used on the maps represent?
A. A consistent colour scheme is used throughout all the maps, tables and spreadsheets in worldmapper. We have divided the world into 12 separate regions (see region map). The regions were chosen to be geographically contiguous groups of territories which divided the world into roughly symmetrically balanced population groups, with no region containing fewer than one hundred million people. Hence we have used 12 colour ranges on the maps. The shade of the colour within each range helps to identify territories and distinguish them from each other within the regions (five shades of each of the twelve regional colours are used to help differentiate territories within regions).

The twelve regions of the world we use are ordered from poorest to richest by the Human Development Index published in 2004. Shades of dark red are used to demarcate the poorest territories – moving through the rainbow scale to a shade violet for the best-off: Japan.

Q. "Why is South Korea painted same color as China?" (for example)
A. Each region is given a colour scheme which allows it to be identified. As Japan is a separate region it as a very different colour. The colour for Eastern Asia is green, so all territories in that region are coloured different shades of the same type of green. After this the particular shade of colouring is decided with the simple aim of keeping territories coloured differently to their immediate neighbours so that they can be easily distinguished from one another. For example Ethiopia and Tanzania are the same colour because they are in the same region (Southeastern Africa) but do not share a border. As South Korea does not border with China, we are able to give it a similar colour to China (although they are actually slightly different shades). See Appendix C for information about how regions are formed.

Q. Why don't you have a map of population density or births per thousand?
A. The maps are best understood as pie charts where the segment of the pie is reshaped to look like a country.  Then the area of that country is adjusted according to the proportion of the world total of a variable that is found there.  Just as a pie chart would.  As such, we can only map counts or totals.  We cannot map rates because they are not additive, that is to say that they do not add up to a meaningful total.  To return to the pie chart analogy, you would not draw a pie chart of population density but one of total population. For more detail on this quesion, see our separate Mapping Rates information page.

Q: I cannot tell which territory is which.
A: There are many ways to identify a particular territory:

  • By its shape and position.
  • By using the labelled territory map, on which all but the smallest territories have been labelled.
  • The shade of colour of a particular territory is consistent throughout each of the maps.
  • The PDF poster and Excel graph sheet both list the top (and bottom) 10 territories (but usually by relative rate rather than absolute number of the variable being mapped).

Q: Why don't you put territory names on the maps?
A: 200 legible names the same size would obscure the maps. If shrunk to the size of each territory, most names would not be legible on maps smaller than A4. We have produced an labelled territory map, on which all but the smallest territories have been labelled. We are looking at ways of adding a label to the maps when you 'hover' with the pointer over a teritory.

Q: How do I compare two maps on the screen at the same time?
A: If you cannot view two web pages simultaneously, try

  • Save one map as a picture and view this beside the web page.
  • Save both as pictures, and then view them in e.g. a photo editor. (Tip: reduce the size of each inner window to allow you to open further files).
  • Look at the pictorial map index.
  • Print the maps you would like to compare.

Q: You have used Mercator's projection! Why?
A: No, the original projection was one that is similar to Peters' projection which is an equal area one. You could stretch the maps vertically or horizontally and all the areas would still be in correct proportion to each other.

Q: The maps all have sea, which is meaningless except on the land area map. Why?
A: The sea makes it much easier to maintain recognisable shapes to the territories, and avoids those separated by an ocean from touching each other. The sea is given a fixed total area, although the area it fills adjusts to the changing shape of territories. The total area for all territories is also the same on all maps, just divided up in different ways

Q: The maps have no scales! Why?
A: With the size of the sea and entire map help constant, territories are drawn in proportion to the variable in question. The area of the entire map represents approximately 3.4 times the world total of the variable. In using a social variable rather than land area to scale the territories, it is the relative sizes of the territories that becomes important.

Q: The world and territory totals are not always given. Why?
A: All the figures for the world, each region and every territory are available in the data sheet of the data file for each map. The cartograms convey the comprehensible relative proportions: if Angola is twice the size of Zambia then the variable in Angola is twice as large as in Zambia. This comparison between territories can be more informative than the absolute figures, which are frequently unimaginable large numbers (billions of dollars for instance).

Q: Why is the population of Alaska so large? (Example query)
A: Because it is treated as part of the shape of the USA and is not disproportionately shrunk because of internal regional differences within the USA.

Q: How does Canada have net immigration and net emigration? (Example query)
A: This is not what you are seeing, on the second map the area where Canada was is Mexico. To assist comparison of two mutually exclusive maps, use a third map which shows every territory, to help with orientation. For instance, use the small inset equal area map of the world shown on every poster.

Q: Is the data accurate.
A: No.
For data to be accurate, all 200 territories would have to produce data for the same time period, by the same method, and by a method which is accurate. Apart from gaps in the original data sets,  the method frequently only gives an approximation, and methodologies can vary, producing different results. To get around the last problem, UN agencies sometimes give estimates in preference to territory-supplied data. We make estimates from data from different years when available. The nature of the maps makes it necessary to produce figures for all 200 territories, and the technical notes say how missing data has been dealt with. See the data page for more information.

Q: Why do you make maps with inaccurate data?
A: We think the overall impression given by each map we produce is unlikely to be different from a map based on accurate data, if it was available.

Q. When will you finish the maps off?
A. We have now finished the initial series of 366 maps. There are some additional series planned, plus plans to make the maps more interactive, so please keep checking back.

Q. Why no maps with the southern hemisphere "on top"?
A. People are familiar with the northern hemisphere on top, and while we obviously encourage the use of maps with a different viewpoint, if one aspect is changed (territory size), rather than many, the reader still has a frame of reference from which to interpret the map. We may consider producing some maps with alternative viewpoints in the future.

Q: Which maps are comparable?
A: Because every map shows just the worldwide distribution of one variable, any maps can be compared however different the units used for the data are.

3 About the PDF poster:

Q: I can't download the PDF poster.
A: The posters are large files, and will take time to download, especially on a dial-up link. You will also need Acrobat Reader to view the file.

Q: Why is the file so large?
A: The resolution is high. Try Adobe Acrobat's magnifier. With a reasonable colour printer and photo quality paper you can produce a colour, atlas quality, printout.

Q: I cannot understand the graph.
A: The lines are colour coded by region (see Excel data sheet file). Usually the regional data shows the totals for all territories in that region. However, for the trade posters the graphs present the regional net flows, not the totals from territories. Thus what is shown is the levels of sub-regional and inter-regional trade.

Q: Why do the 'bottom ten' tables on the posters sometimes not include the real bottom ten?
A: Sometimes the numbers that are being dealt with in the bottom ten are very small, and there is little to distinguish between those territories in the bottom twenty.  In these cases it can be more interesting to show a set of territories that are not the bottom ten, but are close.  At other times some territories may be missed from the list because their data is estimated, so we wish to avoid explicitly stating it as fact.  When regional estimates are shown this is noted in the small technical notes that are included on the poster.

Q: If the 'bottom ten' tables on the poster do not include the real bottom ten, how can I find out which territories these are?
A: Go to the excel file for that particular map, and highlight all the data that is at territory level (do not highlight the regional or world data).  Then go to 'Data' on the menu bar (which you may need to open first) at the top of your screen, and within data choose 'Sort'.  This will give you the option to sort by different columns in ascending or descending order.  So the rate or the total of the measure of a variable can be ranked.  Sometimes it may be necessary to clarify that 'no header row' is required.

4 About the Data files:

Q. I don’t have Microsoft Excel – how can I view the data files?
A. If you are working on a Windows platform, there is a free viewer available from Microsoft.
For any other platform, there are OpenDocument versions of the data files, that can be viewed with open source software such as OpenOffice. A link to both types of data files is at the bottom of each map page.

Q: It shows a strange graph and columns of meaningless figures.
A: You are looking at the Graph sheet (see below). To access the map data click on the Data tab in the bottom left hand corner.

Q: Explain more about the columns in the data sheet.
A: Columns A, B, C and D are common to all the Data sheets. A detailed explanation of each of these columns is in the technical notes for Land Area (001).
Column A = The number is decided by the 2004 Human Development Index rank of the 177 territories included in the main United Nations Development Index in 2004). The other 23 territories are numbered in alphabetical order, starting at number 178.
Column B = Region and territory names.
Column C = A territory's region code number.
Column D = The ISO 3 code, or ISO ALPHA-3 code is a three letter code devised by the International Organization for Standardization.
Detail on other columns appears in the Technical notes files, normally E is the data used for the map, and F is the rate of the variable (either per person or per land area).

Q: I've not heard of some of these regions. What territories are in each?
A: Regions consist of geographically contiguous and nearby territories. They have no official status. If you sort all the columns by column C on any of the Data sheets, it will group each region in its colour code. A labelled map of the regions used is available here.

Q: There are more than 200 territories in the world.
A: In all the rest are less than 0.05% of the world population, so their inclusion would rarely affect the overall figures or appearance of the maps. The appendix posters A (Areas included), B (Islands Assigned to Territories), and C (Regions) provide details which territories are and are not included.

Q: I can't read some of the data because of the background colour.
A: Click on the cell, and its content appears without background colour in the formula bar unless it is a computed value (the formula may or may not help you).

Q: The value in the cell says 0.
A: Click on the cell, and you will see the value to 2 or more significant figures in the formula bar. Alternatively alter the number of decimal places for the whole column.

Q: Will you be putting all the data in a single master file.
A: We have not decided yet – please email if you think this would be a good idea and say how you would like it organised.

Q: What is the graph sheet all about?
A: Top left is a cumulative frequency graph. To its right the top 10 and bottom 10 ranking territories for that map's variable that also appears in the PDF Poster. Column I gives the ordered values of the mapped variable for the territory in column A with no obscuring background colours, and is of particular value if you are having to use the Excel Viewer. The rest is such things as the data for generating the maps, graphs and charts which will not be important to most users.

Q: I cannot understand the graph.
A: They allow you to easily analyse the data in detail. The x variable is usually the rate of the thing being mapped and the y variable is the cumulative population. The population may be everyone, or a particular group. Each territory appears in rank order as a small vertical section of the graph line.
At every point on the line, you can read off the population in the world that lives in territories below a given rate of the x variable. Choose the top or bottom of the vertical section to exclude or include that particular value. You can also work out how many people live in territories between or above certain values.
The territory with the largest total population in each region has a coloured line. Hovering over the horizontal coloured line displays the territory's name. Hovering over the graph line can display x and y values. (Non coloured territories are all called "all".) If the graph line does not hit the x-axis then some territory(s) are outside the x-axis range.
Each territory is a horizontal band across the graph whose height gives its population and width the x value. When the x variable is the rate of the thing being mapped, the area of that band is proportional to the thing being mapped just as on the map itself.
(Note: some of the above features may only work if you have Excel.)

Q: The Excel files say "Read Only".
A: We regret this sometimes happens. You could try saving the file ('right-click' in Windows) rather than opening it. In fact you can still sort, alter and save them as normal.

Q. The Opendocument file saves as a .zip file.
A. This seems to happen under Internet Explorer for Windows, but under Firefox it is fine, with the appropriate '.ods' extension. I have no idea why this happens, if anyone knows, please tell me. A workaround is to use Firefox browser, or alternatively the Excel files will open in OpenOffice.

Q. Why are there 2 Excel files?
A. One has as its background a copy of the appropriate map, and hence is a larger file.

Q. What are the 'Underlying Datasets' (on the data page), and why have these been made available?
A. These four files show our calculations on the source data used on many of the maps. Please note that newer data is available from the original source of the data; we offer these here so that if you are interested, you can follow our workings.

5 About the technical notes:

These will give all the acknowledgements, definitions, data sources, explanations and caveats relevant to the particular maps and their additional material. Technical notes for posters 001 and 002 give detailed information relevant to all the maps and data files.

6 About the charts:

The charts shown in each poster are in most cases simply the absolute or relative value of the variable being mapped for each of the twelve regions.

7 About the data:

Q: Where can I find the figures you used for the maps?
A: In fixed order in the data sheets, this data is labelled 'map data' and is normally in column E. The other columns often provide source data and other data used to calculate missing values.

Q: What happens to the map if the value is zero or negative for a particular territory?
A: The territory becomes an often invisible line. Negative values cannot be mapped here because we cannot represent negative area. As such all values that are negative appear the same as a value of zero on the map.

Q: What happens when there is no data available for particular territories?
A: This varies depending on the variable in question. We try to avoid giving a territory a value of zero just because it has not provided the data to the relevant UN authority, and make various assumptions described in the technical notes to make a provisional estimate. Often these estimates assume the rate of the region in which a territory is located. Sometimes the UN authority does not ask for data from certain territories as the figure is likely to be so near 0% or 100% of whatever - so as to be irrelevant in a world context.

Q: I want to find all the figures for just one territory.
A: Currently you have to look these up separately. We are looking at solutions for offering this option. PLEASE EMAIL US AT If you think this would be useful and say how you would like it done.

Q. Where does the data come from to create the maps?
A. Various sources. For more detail see the technical notes link on each map page. The links or explanations of how to access the data sources is available on the data sources page.

Q. Do you really have all this data for all of the territories you have mapped?
A. Our data files show data for 200 territories, covering the vast majority of the world’s population. For many of the data files, we have had to calculate an estimate for some of the smaller territories based on the regional average. See the data page for more details.

Q: The data is wrong.
A: If the data source given in the technical notes has published incorrect data, please contact the source directly. If we have used regional averages or just put zero, please let us know (email of secondary data sources for missing territories.

8 Copyright

Q. Can I use these posters/maps in my own work?
A. You can print the PDF posters out for your own or educational use. If you wish to use the maps for any other purpose (including publishing), or would like to obtain high-quality PDFs of just the maps, please contact us

9 Making your own maps/requesting maps

Q. Can I produce my own maps like these?
A. The code we use to produce these maps has now been made available by Mark Newman. Alternative code is also available from Michael Gastner's page, and there is a Java implementation by Frank Hardisty. The map we used as a starting point is the vmap Level 0 map, more information avaliable at (full link below). We edited the map somewhat, to add Timor Leste and correct some problems with borders. Tom Gross, of ESRI, has made a tool available for ArcGIS that uses the Gastner/Newman algorithm to produce a cartogram from a shapefile. Link below.

Q. If I supply some data, can you do a map for me?
A. The Worldmapper project has no further funding and we are busy doing other things, so please do understand if me may not reply inquiries for custom maps.

10 Help

See answer 9.1 - you may still email us if you have had a problem or query not dealt with here but our camacities to reply are very limited and we ask for your understanding if we do not reply to all emails.


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