NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Incredible Shrinking World

April 21, 2004

The world's current population (6 billion) will peak at nine billion and then start to decline, according to a demographic research organization in Austria.

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis predicts that, in spite of reports of overpopulated Third World cities, the total population will peak within the lifetime of today's "Gen X'ers" before it ages and declines:

  • As the population becomes more urbanized, fertility rates decline -- currently, none of the industrialized nations produce enough children to sustain their populations.
  • Iran's fertility rate has declined by about two-thirds since its revolution, and India's fertility rate has dropped by about 20 percent in the past 20 years.
  • China's labor force will begin shrinking by the year 2020, and 30 percent of its population will be over the age of 60 by the middle of the century.

In developed countries, children are considered more of an economic burden. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child up to the age of 18 exceeds $200,000 (not including college). While raising a child costs parents in foregone wages, retirement programs such as Social Security depend upon future generations.

Philip Longman of the New America Foundation believes that as urban society conforms to the notion that children are an economic impediment, people will be even less likely to reproduce, leaving the producing and raising of children to those who "are at odds with the modern world." Instead, society must allow parents to enjoy economic benefits while making sacrifices to raise children.

Source: Philip Longman, "Which Nations Will Go Forth and Multiply?" Fortune Magazine, April 5, 2004, based on the book by Wolfgang Lutz, Warren C. Sanderson, and Sergei Scherbov, "The End of World Population Growth in the 21st Century: New Challenges for Human Capital Formation and Sustainable Development," IIASA and Earthscan, March 2004.

For IIASA text


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