World population trends — current and projections

I was checking around for international census information at the U.S. Census Department site (useful for a lot of issues) and thought some of the data was intriguing, especially comparisons of current population rankings of countries with projections to 2050. In 2007, the top 5 ranked countries in population were

  1. China1.321 billion
  2. India1.129 billion
  3. U.S.301.14 million
  4. Indonesia234.69 million
  5. Brazil190.01 million

In 2050, it’s projected that this list will be similar, but with India overtaking China for first place. Currently, India’s fertility rate (births per woman) is 2.8, while China’s is 1.8.

In 2007, there were 7 countries in Eastern and Western Europe among the top 30 in population. In 2050 only 4 are projected to be in the top 30.

There are some great charts on the site as well:

Here’s what the site says about this chart:

The world population growth rate rose from about 1.5 percent per year from 1950-51 to a peak of over 2 percent in the early 1960s due to reductions in mortality. Growth rates thereafter started to decline due to rising age at marriage as well as increasing availability and use of effective contraceptive methods. Note that changes in population growth have not always been steady. A dip in the growth rate from 1959-1960, for instance, was due to the Great Leap Forward in China. During that time, both natural disasters and decreased agricultural output in the wake of massive social reorganization caused China’s death rate to rise sharply and its fertility rate to fall by almost half.

Obviously, the projections to 2050 can’t take account of natural disasters or disastrous government-controlled “Great Leaps Forward.”

I was reminded of William Easterly’s talk at Cato earlier this week when he said: “The last 50 years has seen the greatest mass escape from poverty in human history.” And the “secret,” he said, “is no secret” that central planners seek, but individual creativity leading to invention and diffusion and hence, greater economic growth.