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By Stephen Pederson

Peak Population – The World With Fewer Humans

The End of Population Growth: 2070

Crowd - Union Square, Library of Congress

A swelling crowd of people

In 2012, the US Census Bureau estimated that the world population hit 7,000,000,000 people.  It took 13 years to move from 6,000,000,000 to the 7,000,000,000.  Interestingly enough, for the first time since the world hit its first billion mark it took longer to reach the next billion than the previous time.   In 1999, when the world reached its 6,000,000,000 person it only took 12 years.  For the 7,000,000,000th person it took a year longer.  Why is that important?  It means that the rate of growth in human population is slowing.  Here are the time frames for each billion mark:

  1. 2 billion – 123 years
  2. 3 billion – 33 years
  3. 4 billion – 14 years
  4. 5 billion – 13 years
  5. 6 billion – 12 years
  6. 7 billion – 13 years

What is important to note is that the rate of population growth is diminishing.  In fact, at this point more than half of the world has a fertility rate that is less than the required 2.1 births per female for the population to sustain its current level.  Nations with a fertility rate less than 2.1 births per female are shrinking unless and only immigration is slowing or stopping this.  Here are the current birth rates per female citizen of some major nations:

  • Germany – 1.36
  • Spain – 1.48
  • Italy – 1.40
  • China – 1.48
  • Soviet Union – 1.33
  • Japan – 1.32

This is not a recent development.  Fertility rates have been dropping in the most developed nations for decades.  In emerging economies, a dramatic change in fertility rates have been observed:

Fertility Rates in Emerging Economies (1960 to 2009)

  1. Mexico – 7.3 (1960) to 2.4 (2009)
  2. India – 6.0 (1960) to 2.5 (2009)
  3. Brazil – 6.15 (1960) to 1.9 (2009)

A term has been coined for this phenomenon.  It is referred to as Demographic Transition.  This is a state where an area moves from high birth rates and high death rates to low birth rates and low death rates.  Up to this point in time, no nation has figured out how to completely reverse this situation and increase fertility rates about 2.1 after it has fallen below this number.  A number of nations have instituted significant programs to incent people to have more children, but these programs have only met with marginal success.

The single biggest driver to this appears to be education of female citizens.  The correlation between higher levels of education, career expectations, and low child birth rates is significant.

Although estimates vary,  researchers at Austria’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis estimates that peak population will hit 9,000,000,000 in 2070.  From this point, the world’s population is estimated to decrease.

For more on peak population, see this links:

Declining World Population

European Birth Rates

IIASA World Population Program



See all posts on Demographics

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