CCP wonders why low sec is so under populated. Logically from the point of view of their sand box it should be a transition from the safety of empire to the lawlessness of null sec. That's the theory anyways. But when CCP looked at the population curves, they found out that Empire has the most pilots with the rest spread about evenly between low sec and null sec.
I suspect that the if CCP had a way of splitting the pilot population between "carebears" and "pvp pilots" and analyzing the results, they would find that the population locations are totaly natural because of the design decisions they took.
I'm going to look first at the mission runners. I suspect that 90-95% of the mission runners are in empire space. This is prefectly logical since why go to low sec or 0.0 when the rewards are the same and you loose your ship much less often. The only ones who mission in other places is because they can't actualy access high sec. It doesn't matter if most of these are alts, macro missioners, people missioning for LP or npc/faction standing. They won't be going to low sec for the most part.
Trade mains or alts. Jita or some other hub/region. Needs transaction volume to be truly viable. Again, most of them will be in empire.
Then there are the industrialists/miners now these are the people that CCP is having the most trouble understanding. So I'm going to bullet point some things that CCP in thier lack of wisdom may have overlooked:
1) Getting killed in a defence less ship is NOT FUN!!! and I've got news for you, in 99.9% of the situations even with PvP pilots in the area - if you get caught you loose your ship with no way to mitigate the situation. It's automatic (one of the reason that blockade runners are so popular amongst industrialists is because they actualy have defenses in the sence that when well flown they can get away - they are not just sitting targets).
2) There are no realistic tools short of bubbling a an entire region of space for a PvP pilot to defend a hauling or mining op.
Now due to point 2 that there is nothing a PvP pilot can contribute to a industrial operation in low sec since he can't realisticaly help the industrialists/miners. There is also the difference between the way that PvP and mining/industry reward the players that engage in the activities. In the case of PvP you spend a lot of time looking for a target then a short sharp battle at the end of it and you're all happy. The reason pirates organize into corps? They get more eyes out looking for targets. And the act of looking for targets or avoiding hostiles is part of their game play. It's fun scouting arround and leading a band of cutthroats. And if you get lucky you find some industrialists/miners who can't even shoot back.
Now let's look at the miner/industrialist: Spends lots of his time gathering and turning resources into "things". This means he's stuck in a specific location waiting to get his ship blown up and if by some miracle the pirates are asleep that day, he may get lucky and bring his ore into station. If not, he's not only out another ship, but it didn't even pay for itself since all the ore that could be turned into isk went bye bye when the ship did. Note that he only gets his fun IF he survives to get his cargo to station. Every single time he gets nailed he learns that "well that didn't work and on top of that, it wasn't fun since a) nothing I could do and b) nothing any pvp pilot trying to help me could do"
At this point (and the nature of low sec is that since the miner has to be stationary and pirates are roaving they WILL always end up finding you) the miner learns that it's prety pointless to go into low sec for ANY reason. In fact I suspect taht a lot of low sec moons are not exploited by pirates or industrialists, but by 0.0 residents looking for that extra good moon to round out their production. As evidence for this I only have to point out the first day of the existance of black rise. Who did the FW pilots run into? Red Alliance putting up some moon POSs.
Because of this, you get the situation we have currently. Newbie industrialists and newbie miners may dip their toes into low sec. Mid life indy/miners avoid it like the plague with good reason or join a 0.0 alliance. There is no serious (read industrial scale) exploitation possible in low sec. In 0.0 the bubble mechanics and the ability to defend an area of space mean that the industrialist is actualy getting value out of any PvP pilots associated with them whether part of a more general alliance with it's own space or even as industrial "pets" that pay a rent to a sov holding alliance. In low sec there is no value in being associated with PvP pilots, since they can't effectively defend indy/miners.
And there you have the reason we se no development in low sec. The tools for the PvP pilots to enable them to defend indy/miners don't exist therefore there's no point in it. So we get the situation we have today. And until CCP implements some type of a mechanism allowing for this we won't see any change in the point of view of industrialists: Stay in empire till you're ready for 0.0, low sec is just a training groud for PvP'ers, that's all it's good for.