1. Introduction

Laos’ human geography explores a country where the Lao Kingdom ruled in the 1300’s. Later, Laos became a colony of Thailand and France. This varied history contributes to a country that is quite diverse.

Photo: Laos’ human geography is shaped by Buddhism (Creative Commons: Ahron De Leeuw).

2. Ethnic Groups and Language

Lao 55%
Khmou 11%
Hmong 8%
Tai 4%
Other 22%

Chart: Ethnic Groups of Laos

Ethnic Groups: Laos is quite diverse ethnically.  The Lao people are a slim majority of the population (55%). They are followed by many minority groups that make up the balance of the population. This includes the Khmou (11%), Hmong (8%) and Tai (4%).  The remaining 22% belong to various other minority groups.

Language: The official language of the country is Lao. In addition, French, English, and a number of ethnic languages are also spoken.

3. Religions

Buddhism 67%
Christianity 2%
Other 31%
Unknown 1%

Chart: Religions of Laos

Religion: The majority religion of Laos is Buddhism (67%). It is followed by Christianity (2%), and a variety of other localized religious groups (31%).

4. Demographics

Laos 136%
World 100%
USA 74%

Chart: Population Growth Rate Index (World = 100%)

The population of Laos is about 7 million people. It is the 104th most populated country in the world. Only about a third of the population (39%) live in urban areas. Vientiane is the capital city with a population of about 1 million people.

The population growth rate is about 1.5% a year. This is almost twice that of the United States (0.81%) and greater than the world (1.1%). The country has a moderately high population growth rate. Life expectancy is 64 years of age. This is in the lower end of the scale in comparison to other countries.

5. Economy

Chart: Economic Sectors

More than two-thirds of the labor force works in the agricultural sector (73%). The service sector accounts for 21% of the workforce. The manufacturing sector employs about 6% of the work force. About 22% of the population lives in poverty.

Major agricultural products are coffee and cassava. Important minerals are tin, copper, and gold. Major industries are wood products.

6. Economic Development

Laos 5300 $US
World 13100 $US
USA 52800 $US

Chart: per capita GDP

Laos’ per capita gross domestic product is $5,300. The per capita GDP is one of the lowest in the world. This compares to the world’s average ($13,100) and the USA ($52,800). Laos is clearly a developing country.

7. Political

The official name of Laos is the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

The capital of Laos is Vientiane. Laos is a communist state. The country achieved independence from France in 1949.

8. Improving Your Reading and Thinking Skills

Think for a few moments. Try to recall the major ideas in this article. When you are done, click the box below for a list of main ideas.


How did you do? With practice, you should be able to identify many of the major ideas. You may even discover some important ideas that aren’t listed.

9. Bibliography

Laos Geography, Country Studies.


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