8 Most Populous Countries in South America

South America is a continent renowned for its biodiversity, lively cultures, towering Andes Mountains, beaches, and varied landscapes. In this article, let us examine the demographic profiles of the eight most populous South American countries, each of which has distinct socioeconomic and cultural traits.

The South American countries by population are as follows:

  1. Brazil: 216,422,446 (49.2%)
  2. Colombia: 52,085,168 (11.8%)
  3. Argentina: 45,773,884 (10.4%)
  4. Peru: 34,352,719 (7.8%)
  5. Venezuela: 28,838,499 (6.6%)
  6. Chile: 19,629,590 (4.5%)
  7. Ecuador: 18,190,484 (4.1%)
  8. Bolivia: 12,388,571 (2.8%)
  9. Paraguay: 6,861,524 (1.6%)
  10. Uruguay: 3,423,109 (0.8%)
  11. Guyana: 813,834 (0.2%)
  12. Suriname: 623,237 (0.1%)
  13. French Guiana: 312,155 (0.1%)
  14. Falkland Islands: 3,791 (0.001%)

These are the most recent official statistics, and the percentages show the proportion of each country’s population to that of South America as a whole. South America has a population of more than 441 million. However, this enormous territory provides a fascinating narrative of past migrations, uneven distribution, and varied demographic patterns.

Here are a few more things to think about:

  • South America is home to more than 441 million people.
  • With about half of the continent’s population, Brazil is by far the most populated country.
  • The continent’s population is rising more slowly than the world average.
  • Some countries, like Venezuela, are seeing population declines due to political and economic unrest.

List of 8 South American Countries by Population

Below is a list of the top 8 countries of South America (population-wise):

  1. Brazil
  2. Columbia
  3. Argentina
  4. Peru
  5. Venezuela
  6. Chile
  7. Ecuador
  8. Bolivia

1. Brazil

In terms of both geographical size and population, Brazil is the largest country in South America, with a huge and diversified region. By 2023, Brazil had more people living in its territory than all of South America combined—216,422,446 people, or 49.2% of the continent’s total population.

Brazil has a long history of immigration and cultural integration, which accounts for its demographic domination. Brazil’s population has been influenced by immigration waves from all over the world, starting with the entrance of Portuguese colonists in the 16th century and continuing through the forced migration of African slaves throughout the colonial period.

The majority of people in Brazil live in metropolitan areas, with megacities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo teeming with life and cultural variety. São Paulo, the biggest city in the world and the capital of Brazil is the economic engine of the country, drawing immigrants seeking better job prospects and a higher standard of living from all over the world.

Rio de Janeiro, a city renowned for its breathtaking beaches and exuberant Carnival celebrations, is a melting pot of cultures where European and Afro-Brazilian customs coexist. Brazil’s national identity and worldwide prominence are shaped by these megacities, which operate as centers of innovation, economic activity, and cross-cultural interchange.

Brazil’s extensive hinterlands, especially in areas like the Amazon rainforest, are home to indigenous people and traditional ways of life despite the country’s urbanization. The Amazon basin, encompassing a substantial section of Brazil’s landmass, is one of the planet’s most environmentally and culturally varied places, owing to its remarkable diversity of wildlife and native civilizations.

Quilombos (villages descended from escaped African slaves) and indigenous reserves are examples of remote rural communities that have a strong bond with the land and are essential to the preservation of Brazil’s natural and cultural history.

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2. Colombia

Colombia, the second most populous country in the area, is located in the northwest of the continent and has a population of more than 52,085,168, or 11.8% of all South Americans.

The complicated history of colonialism, migration, and cultural interchange has left a diverse combination of indigenous, European, and African descent among Colombia’s population’s defining characteristics. Afro-Colombians, descendants of European settlers, and indigenous groups cohabit and add to the rich cultural variety of the country.

Spanish colonization of Colombia in the 16th century introduced European influences that shaped the country’s institutions, language, and religion. During the colonial era, African slaves were also imported to Colombia, where they had a lasting influence on the music, dancing, and culinary customs of the country.

Colombia’s demographic distribution varies by area, with rural-to-urban migration leading to notable population increase in vibrant metropolitan centers like Bogotá, Medellin, and Cali. The capital city of Colombia, Bogotá, is one of the biggest cities on the continent and draws people from rural areas who are looking for better living conditions and employment prospects.

Once a hotbed of crime and drug trafficking, Medellin has had a stunning metamorphosis in recent years, becoming a thriving center of both culture and the economy. Nonetheless, indigenous tribes and traditional modes of life continue to exist in rural and isolated locations, including the lush Amazon rainforest, underscoring the variety of Colombia’s population distribution.

Colombia’s turbulent past, which was characterized by Spanish colonization, internal strife, and societal injustices, is reflected in the country’s demographic makeup. The country’s demographics are further complicated by the decades-long armed war that has resulted in internal displacement and violations of human rights between government troops, guerrilla groups, and paramilitary groups.

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3. Argentina

With a population of about 45,773,884 (10.4% of all South Americans) as of 2023, Argentina, renowned for its wide plains, vibrant cities, and rich cultural legacy, is the third most populous country in the continent.

Argentina’s demographic history has been primarily influenced by European immigration, especially during the 19th and 20th centuries, in contrast to many of its Andean neighbors. In search of improved living conditions and economic prospects, waves of German, Italian, and Spanish settlers arrived in Argentina.

This immigration wave had a major impact on the ethnic makeup of the country, with the majority of people having Italian and Spanish origin. As a result, Argentina’s society is more homogeneous than that of other South American countries, which is indicative of its close cultural ties to Europe.

The Pampas area is home to the majority of Argentina’s population, especially in the cities of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, and Rosario. One of the biggest urban areas in South America is Buenos Aires, the country’s cosmopolitan capital city, which alone is home to 25% of the population. 

Economic possibilities, the attraction of city life, and historical migratory patterns have all contributed to this urban concentration. The fast urbanization trend has also brought up problems in rural regions, such as declining agricultural productivity, depopulation, and poor infrastructure, highlighting the necessity of balanced national investment and development.

Argentina has a complex cultural variety that combines Latin American flare with European influences despite its homogeneous ethnic composition. Buenos Aires is home to magnificent buildings with European architectural influences that accentuate the city’s international past.

Argentina’s changing demographics offer possibilities and difficulties for the country’s progress. Rural communities face problems including poverty, inequality, and restricted access to services, whereas metropolitan centers flourish as hubs of cultural creativity and economic activity.

4. Peru

Peru, sometimes called the “cradle of the Inca Empire,” is a country rich in historical civilizations, diverse physical features, and rich cultural traditions. With 34,352,719 people living there (7.8% of all people in South America), Peru’s demographics are influenced by both European and indigenous influences, which reflects the country’s rich cultural legacy and complicated past.

The architectural marvels and cultural accomplishments of ancient civilizations like the Inca, Moche, and Chimu, whose legacies are entwined with Peru’s history, continue to enchant the globe. The resilience of native populations, especially the Quechua and Aymara peoples, is evidence of Peru’s rich cultural legacy. These groups, who live in isolated Andean valleys and highland villages, maintain their predecessors’ spiritual beliefs, customs, and languages to link to the land and their ancestors.

Since the Spanish invasion of the country in the 16th century, Europe has had a profound impact on Peruvian culture, language, and society. The capital city of Lima, with its colonial architecture, thriving cultural scene, and international vibe, is one urban hub that attests to its colonial heritage. Lima, as Peru’s economic, political, and cultural center, draws people seeking opportunity and a better life from surrounding countries and rural regions.

Geographic differences characterize the distribution of Peru’s population, with most people living in the coastal area and the Andean highlands. The Andean highlands are home to indigenous people whose way of life is molded by centuries-old traditions and customs. These regions are distinguished by their rough mountainous topography and historic agricultural terraces.

The coastal area, on the other hand, provides a striking contrast to the high-altitude settlements with its lush farms, vibrant cities, and sunny beaches. This area draws migrants and urban residents who are looking for work and a more comfortable temperature.

Because of its diversified population, Peru poses a challenge to policymakers who want to support inclusive development and meet the demands of many groups around the country. Urban and rural communities continue to have different levels of access to infrastructure, healthcare, and education, exacerbating social inequality and impeding economic development.

5. Venezuela

Venezuela, located on the continent’s northern coast, has a population of more than 28,838,499, making it the 5th most populated country (6.6% of all South Americans). Venezuela maintains its reputation as a dynamic, ethnically diverse country despite recent economic difficulties.

Because of a complicated past influenced by indigenous, European, African, and immigrant influences, Venezuela’s population mix is distinguished by its rich ethnic variety and vibrant culture. With indigenous groups across the country maintaining their traditions, dialects, and rituals, indigenous heritage continues to be an essential component of Venezuelan identity.

The majority of Venezuelans live in metropolitan areas, with the country’s capital, Caracas, and Maracaibo, developing as vibrant centers of social innovation and economic activity. Caracas is home to around 5 million people, making it one of the most crowded cities in the country.

These metropolitan cities’ socioeconomic development has been propelled by urbanization, which has drawn investments, encouraged entrepreneurship, and stimulated cross-cultural interaction. However, the difficulties brought on by fast urbanization—such as stress on the infrastructure, deterioration of the environment, and socioeconomic inequality—highlight the necessity of inclusive development policies and sustainable urban planning.

Venezuela’s economic fortunes, especially its enormous oil reserves, which have traditionally driven population growth and wealth, are closely related to the country’s demographic patterns. Oil wealth for decades drew immigrants from nearby countries looking for improved living conditions and economic opportunities.

But current economic unrest, made worse by elements like plummeting oil prices, poor administration, and unstable political environments, has led to a large-scale flight of Venezuelans fleeing their country in search of safety abroad. The demographic landscape of Venezuela has become more complex as a result of the migration crisis, placing a burden on available resources and creating difficulties for both host countries and Venezuelan migrants.

6. Chile

Stretching along South America’s western coast, Chile offers an alluring combination of a dynamic economy, a stable political structure, and a varied topography. Chile’s population exceeds 19,629,590 (4.5% of all South Americans) as of 2023.

Geographically speaking, Chile is diverse, with the harsh Andes Mountains in the east, the Pacific Ocean shoreline in the west, and the Atacama Desert in the north. This diverse terrain impacts the country’s economic operations in addition to adding to its natural beauty.

Chile’s strong economy is fueled by mining, agricultural, fishing, and tourist sectors. The country is one of the world’s top producers of copper. Chile has also signed several trade agreements and supported free trade, which has promoted stability and economic progress.

The majority of Chile’s population is mestizo, meaning they have a mix of European and indigenous origin. The area has historically been populated by Spanish colonial settlers as well as native populations like the Mapuche.

Chile’s food, language, customs, and identity have all been influenced by this blending of cultures. Here, a considerable section of the population lives in metropolitan regions, illustrating the country’s strong urbanization tendency. The main urban center and the core of the country’s politics, culture, and economy is Santiago, the capital city.

Other significant population concentrations are Concepción, a major industrial and educational hub in the southern area, and Valparaíso, renowned for its vibrant hillsides and busy harbor. Because of its economic success, Chile’s people now have more socioeconomic options, such as work, healthcare, and educational opportunities. The country has been known as one of the most developed in Latin America as a result of its tremendous progress in lowering poverty and raising living standards.

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7. Ecuador

Northwestern South America’s Ecuador, tucked away near the equator, is a fascinating country with a wide variety of scenery, abundant wildlife, and dynamic indigenous cultures. Ecuador is 7th of the most populated countries in the area, with a population that exceeds 18,190,484 (4.1% of the total population of South America).

Ecuador’s geographical variety is evidence of its ecological relevance and natural beauty. Ecuador provides a patchwork of landscapes rich in biodiversity, ranging from the lush Amazon rainforest in the east to the majestic peaks of the Andes Mountains in the middle and the immaculate beaches of the Pacific coast in the west.

Numerous plant and animal species may be found in the country, including well-known inhabitants like the giant river otter, jaguar, and Andean condor. Ecuador is known as one of the world’s megadiverse countries because of its dedication to sustainable tourism and conservation.

Its indigenous peoples have molded the country’s rich cultural legacy throughout millennia of occupation. The multicultural identity is enriched by the preservation of ancestral traditions, dialects, and rituals by communities like the Kichwa, Shuar, and Waorani. Spanish colonialism brought European influences to the 16th century, resulting in a mestizo civilization that blended the cultures of the indigenous people with the Spanish.

Ecuador’s mestizo ethnicity, which accounts for a sizeable section of the population, is what defines the country’s demographic composition. In Ecuadorian culture, this identity bridges disparate ethnic and cultural origins, acting as a uniting factor.

With Quito and Guayaquil rising as important concentrations of economic activity, cultural interaction, and political relevance, Ecuador’s population is concentrated in metropolitan centers. The capital city of Quito, which is located high in the Andes, is widely known for its cosmopolitan vibe, thriving cultural scene, and well-preserved colonial architecture.

8. Bolivia

Bolivia is a landlocked country in the center of South America that is well-known for its magnificent Andean scenery, dynamic indigenous cultures, and extensive historical legacy. In 2022, Bolivia had more than 12,388,571 people living there (2.8% of all South Americans), making it 8th of the most populated and culturally varied countries on the continent.

The beautiful peaks of the Andes Mountains, which run the length of Bolivia from north to south, dominate the country’s rough landscape. These striking landscapes are home to many indigenous people, including the Aymara, Quechua, and Guarani, in addition to captivating tourists with their untamed beauty.

Bolivia’s indigenous cultures are characterized by a diverse range of customs, dialects, and religious convictions that are ingrained in the landscape and influenced by years of history. Bolivia’s indigenous legacy, from vibrant festivals honoring agricultural cycles to elaborate weaving arts, passed down through generations, is proof of survival and cultural continuity.

A wide variety of races and ancestries make up Bolivia’s demographic mosaic, which is the result of centuries of migration, marriages, and cultural interchange. Mestizos, or people of mixed indigenous and European ancestry, comprise a sizable section of Bolivia’s population and represent the merging of colonial and indigenous traditions.

Spanish colonialism brought European influences to Bolivia in the sixteenth century, permanently altering its language, religion, and society. Bolivia’s indigenous traditions have survived and are still influencing the country’s politics, social dynamics, and national identity despite this colonial past.

Bolivia’s varied topography, which includes high-altitude plateaus, tropical lowlands, and extensive rainforests, is closely related to the country’s demographic distribution. Major population concentrations like La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba have emerged as centers of economic activity and cross-cultural contact, demonstrating the prevalence of urbanization as a demographic trend.

Bolivia has abundant natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage, but the country also suffers serious socioeconomic problems like poverty, inequality, and political unrest. There are still economic gaps between rural and urban regions, which exacerbate social unrest and fuel migration.


South America’s demographics are as varied and dynamic as its topography and cultural traditions. Every one of the most populated countries on the continent, from Bolivia’s Andean peaks to Brazil’s vast metropolises, provides a distinctive fusion of human experience, history, and legacy.

This examination of the eight most populous South American countries tells an intriguing tale of past migrations, unequal distribution, and distinctive demographic patterns within each country. Although Brazil is the most populous country, each country offers a unique component in the fascinating mosaic that is South America’s demographic landscape.

More information is revealed by this statistical voyage than just figures on a map. It reveals the tenacity of indigenous tribes in Peru, the colorful fusion of African and European influences in Colombian culture, and the contemporary goals entwined with ancient customs in the Andean highlands. It draws attention to Venezuela’s difficulties in navigating economic turmoil and internal displacement while showcasing Argentina’s vibrant culture, where European ancestry dances with a Latin American flare.

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What Factors Contribute to Population Growth in South America?

South America’s population growth is impacted by many variables, including migratory trends, socioeconomic development, and birth and death rates. Population dynamics are also significantly shaped by urbanization, better healthcare, and educational possibilities.

What Effect Does Immigration Have On the Countries of South America’s Demographic Composition?

Immigration enhances the social cohesion and economic vibrancy of South American countries by adding to their ethnic and cultural variety. The region’s cultural mosaic is enhanced by the varied viewpoints, abilities, and customs that immigrants bring to the table.

What Are the Challenges Associated With Rapid Urbanization in South America?

South America is rapidly becoming more urbanized, which presents problems such as environmental degradation, insufficient infrastructure, overpopulation, and socioeconomic inequality. To promote fair development, addressing these issues calls for inclusive policies, public service investments, and sustainable urban planning.

How Do the Governments of South America Deal With Population Increase and Demographic Trends?

Governments in South America undertake a range of policies and programs, such as family planning campaigns, healthcare reforms, and immigration laws, to address demographic trends and population increase. To solve the demographic difficulties in the region, cooperation with neighboring countries and international organizations is essential.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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