World Population by Time Zone

Cory Doctorow, scifi author and BoingBoing co-founder, once wrote a scifi novel called Eastern Standard Tribe (available free). It was fun read but what I enjoyed most was his idea that people would belong to a "tribe" based on their time zone. In Doctorow's world, your loyalties lie not with the country of your birth but with the people who are up when you are.

This evening I was thinking about this novel and idly wondered which tribe would be the biggest? In other words, which time zone is the most highly populated?

Looking at a map, the answer was obvious: it had to be UTC+8 which includes not only China but Malaysia, the Philippines, and more.

Still, the fun of such a frivolous question is less in the answer than in the answering, so I fired up Mathematica and a few calculations later generated this graph.

I cheated a little by using a simplifying assumption: if a country has multiple time zones, I divide its population evenly between them. This inaccuracy doesn't change the fact that our top three are... <drumroll>
  1. UTC+8: China and others
  2. UTC+5.5: India and others
  3. UTC+1: Western Europe and a good chunk of Africa

According to Mathematica, there are 39 different time zones ranging from UTC-11.5 to UTC+14. I wonder if anyone has visited them all? Now that would be a glorious adventure! :-)
28 responses
I wrote a couple of quick scripts which used the data from

This allowed me to grab the city's population and timezone. This gives me more accurate results per time zone than simply dividing the country's population over the number of timezones.

I only got 38 timezones and 1 of those is null.

array(38) {


Thanks a lot for your comment, I appreciate you taking up the challenge of making these results more accurate!

I think there's something to be said for the geonames data though. When I add all your population numbers together they only come to 2,746,443,084, far below the earth's pop.

FWIW my stats, when summed, come to 6,926,242,503.

Hi Paul, Just wondering where you got your population figures for each time from?
From Mathematica.
I had a dream a few nights ago about the population of time zone and you have given me a great answer. Thank you so much.
Many thanks for your comment Bob. Glad I could answer your dream question :-)
Could you give me the numbers you've used for this graph, please
Could you please share the population per timezone data with us?
I was just thinking of making this! Nice work btw.
China straddles multiple timezones, but their entire nation uses the same time, so you don't really need to divide it.
Hi Paul, I'm very interested in your analysis and was hoping to discuss it further with you. I have started to compile data from various places on the internet and would love to share my findings with you.
Alex, Evan, and Rithika, thanks for your comments. I got the data from Mathematica. You should be able to get the same thing from Wolfram Alpha: You basically want a list of countries, their population, and their timezone(s). C, you're right, China has one timezone so I don't subdivide it. Countries like the US, Australia and esp. Russia are the ones I subdivide (albeit crudely).
So has half the worlds population moved to new year when India changes?
Hi Paul, 1. Question: I presume that when you divided US population evenly to various time zones, you didn't made it even for Alaska and Hawai Time Zone, where only ~0.6% lives, whereas the rest 99.4% lives in the other four zones! 2. Request: Can you please share the numbers for each zones you've computed, so that somebody like me who's curious to know but lazy to do the math our own need not reinvent the wheel. I know there could be some errors due to approximation, but given that none of us here doing a PhD in a related subject, whatever data you've would suffice most of us! Cheers! Salman (India)
Came here to see if someone had done this already. While skimming through some other answers, most US only, I briefly thought "Heh, it's sort of like I'm trying to do a population census for Easter Standard Tribe. That was a good book. I haven't thought about it in *years*, I should probably reread it". Only fitting that half way down the search results, this is where I end up.
Thanks for the note Patrick, glad you made your way over here! :-)
I tried using pixel measurements to get the exact numbers: -10.0: 0.55 | 55,000,000 -9.0: 0.5 | 50,000,000 -8.0: 0.85 | 85,000,000 -7.0: 0.85 | 85,000,000 -6.0: 1.45 | 145,000,000 -5.0: 2.3 | 230,000,000 -4.5: 0.3 | 30,000,000 -4.0: 1.0 | 100,000,000 -3.75: 0.0 | 0 -3.5: 0.05 | 5,000,000 -3.0: 0.95 | 95,000,000 -2.0: 0.5 | 50,000,000 -1.0: 0.15 | 15,000,000 0.0: 2.9 | 290,000,000 1.0: 6.7 | 67,000,000 2.0: 5.65 | 565,000,000 3.0: 3.55 | 355,000,000 3.5: 0.75 | 75,000,000 4.0: 0.4 | 40,000,000 4.5: 0.45 | 45,000,000 5.0: 2.45 | 245,000,000 5.5: 12.45 | 1,245,000,000 5.75: 0.3 | 30,000,000 6.0: 1.85 | 185,000,000 6.5: 0.5 | 50,000,000 7.0: 1.9 | 190,000,000 8.0: 17.0 | 1,700,000,000 8.5: 0.05 | 5,000,000 9.0: 3.0 | 300,000,000 9.5: 0.05 | 5,000,000 10.0: 0.25 | 25,000,000 11.0: 0.15 | 15,000,000 11.5: 0.0 | 0 12.0: 0.20 | 20,000,000 13.0: 0.0 | 0 14.0: 0.0 | 0
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