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Oct. 16 2013 12:39 PM

Iceland: Home of the World’s Craziest Population Statistics

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Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Iceland, was named after subglacial lakes in a very volcanically active region in its center. It also happens to sit in a nation where one of every 10 people is an author.

Photo by Thorvaldur Orn Krismundsson/AFP/Getty Images

Is Iceland the most literary and sports-mad country on the planet?

Well, sort of. One important thing to realize about Iceland is that there aren’t very many people there: 300,000, two-thirds of whom live in the Reykjavik area. The population is slightly larger than that of Corpus Christi, Texas. So when a lot of Icelanders do anything, it can produce some mind-blowing statistics. When, for instance, 6,000 people come out to protest the government, that’s 2 percent of the population. Two of these impressive stats popped up in the media this week.

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On Monday, the Independent reported on a Norway-Iceland World Cup qualifying match being held in Oslo, and pointed out that “There will be nearly 3,000 Iceland fans at the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo—almost 1 per cent of the country’s population.”

Also this week, the BBC reports in a feature on Iceland’s literary culture that “one in ten people will publish a book” in the country.

The country’s statistics agency predicts that the population is expected to climb to between 430,000 and 490,000 by 2060, thanks largely to increased migration. That might be good for Iceland, but not so good for continuing to produce crazy population stats. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog.