South America is a subcontinent of the Americas located in the Southern, Western and Northern Hemispheres with a 2013 population estimated at 386,000,000, according to national estimates of its various countries and statistical calculations.
South America is bordered by North America and the Caribbean Sea to the northwest, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It includes a total of 12 sovereign states and two non-sovereign areas: French Guiana (overseas region of France) and the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory. Trinidad, Tobago and the ABC islands belonging to the Netherlands are also sometimes considered a part of South America.
By far the most populous country in South America is Brazil, which has topped 201 million for the first time in 2013. Brazil is the fifth most populous country on earth, after China, India, the United States and Indonesia. Brazil is currently enjoying a high growth rate that's outpaced previous projections, but it is expected to stabilize around 218 million by 2060.
The top 5 most populous countries in South America are:
- Brazil: 201 million
- Colombia: 47 million
- Argentina: 41 million
- Peru: 31 million
- Venezuela: 30 million
Least Populous Countries
By far the least populous country in South America is the non-sovereign Falkland Islands of the United Kingdom, which has a population in 2013 of just 3,000 people. This archipelago has an area of 12,173 square kilometers (4,700 square miles), and its population consists mostly of native Falkland Islanders, most of British descent. French Guiana follows the Falkland Islands as the second least populous country of the continent with an estimated 2013 population of 259,000.
The least populous sovereign country in South America is Suriname (or Surinam), with a 2013 population of 539,000. Located in northern South America, the country is bordered by Brazil to the south, French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the north. Suriname is also the smallest sovereign state in the region with just 165,000 square kilometers (64,000 square miles) of land, and it's the only independent country in the Americas that speaks Dutch.
The 5 least populous countries in South America are:
- Falkland Islands (UK): 3,000
- French Guiana: 259,000
- Suriname: 539,000
- Guyana: 798,000
- Uruguay: 3.297 million
Comparison to Other Continents
South America has a total land area of 17.84 million square kilometers (6.89 square miles), which makes it fourth in terms of area (behind Asia, Africa and North America) and fifth in terms of population (after Asia, Africa, Europe and North America).
Despite being one of the smallest and least populous continents, South America is the third most populous with an average of 73 people per square mile. This compares to Asia with a population density of 203 people per square mile, and Europe with 134 people per square mile. The population density of South America as a whole compares to the population density of the entire United States of 76 people per square mile.
South America's Population Growth
As a whole, South America enjoys strong growth with an overall growth rate of over 1% per year. The region has a relatively low migration rate with high fertility and a high birth rate.
South America currently has a very high proportion of children under 15 years, and many of its countries are enjoying high annual economic growth rates as high as 8% in the case of Argentina, while unemployment remains fairly low.
As a whole, only Bolivia has a population growth rate above 1%, while the vast majority of South American countries are growing at a rate of 1% per year. Meanwhile, the Falkland Islands, Guyana and Uruguay are at a 0% growth rate.
This means South America's population should continue growing steadily and modestly until 2060, when it will stabilize with a population of about 218 million.