NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.N. Backs Off From Overpopulation Thesis

March 4, 2002

Some years back, the United Nations foresaw a massive increase in world population. But its latest medium projections conclude that in this century we can expect a "slowing of population growth rates" followed by "slow reductions in the size of world populations."

But American Enterprise Institute demographer Ben J. Wattenberg still thinks the U.N. projections are too high. "Never have birth and fertility rates fallen so far, so low, for so long, in so many places," he writes.

  • The U.N.'s new proposal acknowledges that fertility is falling more rapidly than expected in some big, less developed countries.
  • The U.N. concludes that the less developed nations are heading toward a fertility rate of 1.85 children per woman -- down significantly from the 2.1 of earlier projections, which is also the replacement rate.
  • This would yield a maximum global population in the 8 billion to 9 billion range -- far below the 11.5 billion predicted in earlier studies.
  • Wattenberg thinks even the new figure of 1.85 children per woman is too high and that by 2050 the world will experience a substantial population decline.

This would mean that we are not a species that is out of control, and that we can view issues such as family planning and the environment calmly and without panic.

Source: Ben J. Wattenberg (American Enterprise Institute), "'Overpopulation' Turns Out to Be Overhyped," Wall Street Journal, March 4, 2002.


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