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CIAO Focus, November 2011: World Population Now Exceeds 7 Billion

In the year 10 AD the total human population of the earth was around 300 million.   It took until 1804 for that number to reach 1 billion and another 123 years to hit 2 billion in 1927.  But starting in 1950, the world population began to accelerate at an unprecedented rate: 3 billion in 1959, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999 and 7 billion in 2011.  Much of this demographic expansion has largely been the result of improved mortality rates in much of the developing world.  Average global life expectancy has risen from 48 years in the early 1950s to about 68 today.  Moreover, fewer children succumb to life threatening illnesses thanks to improved access to health care and better sanitation.

The global population is currently growing at a rate of 200,000 people per day and, according to United Nations estimates, will reach 8 billion by 2025.  Much of this growth will be in sub-Saharan Africa where the average fertility rate is 5.11 (World Bank estimates).  Potential problems manifest in such numbers include: food shortages, diminished access to clean drinking water, shrinking resources and damage to the environment.  Two obvious solutions would be to: 1) promote equality and education for women (there is a proven correlation between educating women and low fertility rates); and 2) make effective birth control accessible to all sexually active humans. 

Although sources predict a more crowded planet in the decades to come, most experts say that toward the end of the century population growth will level off and actually start to decline.  Fertility rates have in fact been declining in most parts of the world (including sub-Saharan Africa) for many years now, having reached their peak levels between 1965 and 1970. 

Robert Sedgwick
Editor, CIAO

--Robert Sedgwick


From the CIAO Database:

World Population Prospects and the Global Economic Outlook

Beyond Population: Everyone Counts in Development

Population Aging and Economic Progress in Asia: A Bumpy Road Ahead?

Focus UNFPA: Four Recommendations for Action

The Economics of Population Policy for Carbon Emissions Reduction in Developing Countries


Outside Sources: *

United Nations Population Fund

UNFPA State of World Population 2011

7 Billion, National Geographic Magazine (video)

Population Reference Bureau

The world at seven billion (BBC News)

Global Footprint Network

* Outside links are not maintained. For broken outside links, CIAO recommends the Way Back Machine.