NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 27, 2004

The world is not in danger of overpopulation as has been feared, but rather declining population, says Philip Longman, senior fellow at the New America Foundation. While the perception is that the world population will continue to grow at a rapid pace, a closer look at demographic trends shows otherwise:

  • The rate of world population growth has fallen by more than 40 percent since the late 1960s.
  • United Nations forecasts show, even in the absence of wars or pandemics, the number of humans on Earth will fall within the lifetime of today's children.
  • Demographers predict that the human population will peak at 9 billion in 2070 and then begin to contract.

Longman says the root cause of this trend is falling birthrates. Today, the average woman in the world bears half as many children as did her counterpart in 1972. Furthermore, no industrialized nation still produces enough children to sustain its population over time or to prevent rapid population aging:

  • Russia's population is contracting by three-quarters of a million a year.
  • Japan's population is expected to peak as early as 2005 and then fall by as much as 33 percent over the next 50 years.
  • Germany risks losing the equivalent population of former East Germany over the next half century.

The changing economics of family life is the prime factor in discouraging childbearing. In nations rich and poor, as more and more people move to urban areas in which children offer little or no economic reward to their parents, and as women acquire economic opportunities and reproductive control, the costs of childbearing continue to rise, explains Longman.

Source: Phillip Longman, "The Global Baby Bust," Foreign Affairs, June 2004.

For text


Browse more articles on Government Issues