Population trends

September 29, 2013

We had a terrific talk Friday by demographer John Bongaarts, who kicked off the “Demography for Economists” conference sponsored by the Center. John gave us a broad overview of global population tends, with these highlights:

  • The world’s population is predicted to rise from roughly 8 billion now to 11 billion by the end of the century.
  • Almost all of the increase will be in Africa. At that point, Africa and Asia will have about 4 billion people each, with less than 3 billion everywhere else.
  • The critical factor here is the birth rate (“fertility”). In the developed world, women give birth to 2 children each — or less. In Asia and Latin America the number is about 2.5. But in Africa it’s about 5.
  • This is partly a matter of economic development: most countries find that birth rates decline as they develop. But education of women and family planning programs also play a role.
  • Differences in birth rates, combined with reductions in death rates (“mortality”), means that the developed world will have a progressively older population, while Africa will remain young. The challenges of the two are quite different: pensions and healthcare for the old, education for the young.

If none of this strikes a chord with you, remember our favorite demographic factoid: in 2012, Japan sold more diapers for adults than children.

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