30 countries where much (or most!) of the population lives in one city, like Israel, Japan, and Greece

About 30% of Japan's population lives in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

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About 30% of Japan’s population lives in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
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tomlamela/iStock

Many countries, like the US and China, have huge populations spread out over a vast area in dozens or hundreds of cities and towns. But in some parts of the world, the big city dominates.

The United Nations provides estimates of the populations of the world’s countries and large cities. The database includes estimates for the populations of over 1,800 major urban areas with at least 300,000 residents.

We used the 2019 population estimates for the cities and countries in the database to find the share of each country’s population living in its largest city. In addition to being limited to countries that include urban areas with populations over 300,000, we also excluded city-states like Singapore and sub-regions of countries, like Hong Kong, China and Puerto Rico, United States.

We found the 30 countries with the largest share of the population living in the biggest city. The countries are geographically spread out, ranging from North Macedonia in Europe to Mongolia in Asia to Argentina in South America. Most of the countries have relatively small populations, but a handful, like Japan, have populations over 100 million.

Here are the countries where a huge share of the population lives in the largest city:


30. Nouakchott, Mauritania, had a population of 1,259,000, which was 27.8% of the country’s population of 4,526,000.

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A woman shields her child from the wind while walking on sand dunes in Nouakchott, Mauritania.
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Joe Penney/Reuters

29. Skopje, North Macedonia, had a population of 590,000, which was 28.3% of the country’s population of 2,083,000.

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A converted supermini car Zastava 750, which has its combustion engine replaced with an electric one by BB Classic Cars, drives in Skopje.
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Reuters

28. Lisbon, Portugal, had a population of 2,942,000, which was 28.8% of the country’s population of 10,226,000.

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Portugal’s Prime Minister and Socialist Party candidate Antonio Costa meets supporters in Lisbon.
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Reuters

27. Dubai, United Arab Emirates, had a population of 2,833,000, which was 29.0% of the country’s population of 9,771,000.

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A booth on a beach in Dubai carrying the Expo 2020 logo.
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Reuters

26. Bata, Equatorial Guinea, had a population of 395,000, which was 29.1% of the country’s population of 1,356,000.


25. Tokyo, Japan, had a population of 37,435,000, which was 29.5% of the country’s population of 126,860,000.

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A woman protects herself from the sun with an umbrella during a heatwave as she crosses the street in Tokyo’s Shibuya district on August 4, 2019.
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Charly Triballeau / AFP / Getty

24. Monrovia, Liberia, had a population of 1,467,000, which was 29.7% of the country’s population of 4,937,000.

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Downtown Monrovia, Liberia.
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Wikimedia/CC/Erik (HASH) Hershman

23. Athens, Greece, had a population of 3,154,000, which was 30.1% of the country’s population of 10,473,000.


22. Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, had a population of 579,000, which was 30.1% of the country’s population of 1,921,000.

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Downtown Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, photographed from Pensao Central balcony.
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Wikimedia Commons/Nammarci

21. Muscat, Oman, had a population of 1,502,000, which was 30.2% of the country’s population of 4,975,000.

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A view of the skyline in Muscat, Oman.
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Chris Jackson/Getty

20. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, had a population of 3,245,000, which was 30.2% of the country’s population of 10,739,000.

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Dancers parading at “Malecon” Carnival on March 6, 2011 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
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Shutterstock/Daniel-Alvarez

19. Lima, Peru, had a population of 10,555,000, which was 32.5% of the country’s population of 32,510,000.

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Lima, Peru.
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Christian Vinces/Shutterstock

18. Auckland, New Zealand, had a population of 1,582,000, which was 33.1% of the country’s population of 4,783,000.

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A rainbow appears on the Auckland skyline featuring Sky Tower in New Zealand.
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Reuters

17. Riga, Latvia, had a population of 634,000, which was 33.3% of the country’s population of 1,907,000.

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Riga, Latvia.
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Roman Babakin / Shutterstock

16. Tallinn, Estonia, had a population of 441,000, which was 33.3% of the country’s population of 1,326,000.

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View of the city’s main gates in Tallinn, Estonia.
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Jordan Mansfield/Getty

15. Buenos Aires, Argentina, had a population of 15,057,000, which was 33.6% of the country’s population of 44,781,000.

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The Obelisco de Buenos Aires is seen on July 11, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

14. Beirut, Lebanon, had a population of 2,407,000, which was 35.1% of the country’s population of 6,856,000.

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Two men hold a Lebanese national flag as they pose for a photo on the rooftop of the “Egg”, an abandoned cinema building in Beirut, Lebanon, October 25, 2019.
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Reuters

13. Santiago, Chile, had a population of 6,724,000, which was 35.5% of the country’s population of 18,952,000.

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Participants in costume dance during a parade commemorating Earth Day in downtown Santiago, April 22, 2013.
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REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

12. Manama, Bahrain, had a population of 600,000, which was 36.6% of the country’s population of 1,641,000.

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Manama, Bahrain.
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Getty/Husain Abbas

11. Yerevan, Armenia, had a population of 1,083,000, which was 36.6% of the country’s population of 2,958,000.

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Yerevan, Armenia.
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MehmetO/Shutterstock

10. Libreville, Gabon, had a population of 824,000, which was 37.9% of the country’s population of 2,173,000.

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A military convoy in Gabon’s capital of Libreville, following a ruling by the constitutional court confirming the election victory of President Ali Bongo, September 24, 2016.
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REUTERS/Edward McAllister

9. Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, had a population of 544,000, which was 39.0% of the country’s population of 1,395,000.

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Carnival Monday aftermath in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
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Blacqbook / Shutterstock

8. Brazzaville, Congo, had a population of 2,308,000, which was 42.9% of the country’s population of 5,381,000.

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Congolese voters gather outside the Nkouka Boussoumbou de Madibou school used as a polling station in Brazzaville on July 30, 2017, while ballots are counted at the end of the second round of the country’s legislative elections.
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AFP via Getty Images

7. Panama City, Panama, had a population of 1,822,000, which was 42.9% of the country’s population of 4,246,000.

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Panama City, Panama.
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Rodrigo Cuel/Shutterstock

6. Asunción, Paraguay, had a population of 3,279,000, which was 46.5% of the country’s population of 7,045,000.


5. Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel, had a population of 4,097,000, which was 48.1% of the country’s population of 8,519,000.

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Tel Aviv, Israel.
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REUTER/ Nir Elias

4. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, had a population of 1,553,000, which was 48.2% of the country’s population of 3,225,000.

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Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
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In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

3. Montevideo, Uruguay, had a population of 1,745,000, which was 50.4% of the country’s population of 3,462,000.

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Montevideo, Uruguay.
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Shutterstock

2. Djibouti, Djibouti, had a population of 569,000, which was 58.4% of the country’s population of 974,000.

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The old port of Djibouti, Republic of Djibouti.
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DeAgostini/Getty Images

1. Kuwait City, Kuwait, had a population of 3,052,000, which was 72.5% of the country’s population of 4,207,000.

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Downtown Kuwait City, Kuwait.
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trabantos / Getty Images