News Brief by Kip Hansen – 6 April 2022
NATURE magazine published a Book Review of a new book out from Jennifer D. Sciubba titled: “8 Billion and Counting: How Sex, Death, and Migration Shape Our World”.
Quoting the Nature review:
“Japan is ageing so rapidly that if current trends continue, the nation could eventually disappear altogether”, writes Jennifer Sciubba in her data-packed book 8 Billion and Counting.
Almost eight billion people live on Earth; their futures are highly divergent, argues Sciubba, a senior associate at Washington DC think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The twenty-first century “is less a story about exponential population growth than it is a story about differential growth — marked by a stark divide between the world’s richest and poorest countries”, she writes.”
In Latin America and the Caribbean, eastern and southeast Asia, Europe and North America, Australia and New Zealand, the total fertility rate (TFR), or average number of children a woman is likely to have in her lifetime, was below replacement level (around 2.1 children per woman) in 2020. By contrast, sub-Saharan Africa’s population is set to increase sixfold this century; its TFR is 4.72, down from 5.88 two decades ago. In Nigeria, children and adolescents are half of the population. In rural towns in South Korea, primary schools are closing for lack of pupils, whereas urban areas of Lagos ring “with the sounds of children playing”….
The book is fascinating, but no real surprises are to be found for those who actually follow population trends. [ I certainly hope that the book reviewer is misquoting the book author about Japan “eventually disappearing.” ]
You might be interested in seeing some of the actual data:
Two things of interest stand out: 1) This is the actual number of births. Focus on the right -hand side of the graphic and on the width of colored areas. Asia we see is responsible for the largest number of total births but the width of the bar is narrowing – there are fewer births each year. The opposite is true for Africa, the blue band is getting wider and wider, more and more births. It is harder to see, but Europe is narrowing with fewer births, with North America remaining more or less stable. Latin America and the Caribbean births are increasing.
The second interesting thing is that births dipped sharply in the 1970s and in the 1990s. One might speculate that the spreading use of the birth control pill after 1965 caused the first dip. The 1990s dip is best explained by this chart of regional fertility:
In this study, we see plummeting fertility rate in East Asia dropping below the replacement level through the 1990s. Note that Africa is not on this chart. China’s “one child policy” was not implemented until 1980.
Our World in Data offers this speculative version:
The top two traces are Africa which is the obvious outlier with TFR above 4 while the rest of the world is 2.5 and below. The breakout box shows the number of regions that are already below the replacement level which include both North and South America and Europe.
One more then readers can discuss the news:
Here we see that world population growth (the upper-most trace) mirrors Asia growth (the dark red, second trace down). However, the sharp decline in Asian growth is being clearly offset by rising growth in Africa, which is the only region shown to be rising substantially.
And for World Total Population? The numbers are rising and will continue to as human life spans increase and reproduction does not stop. The United Nations predicts it will peak out at about 11 billion around 2100.
What are the reasons for this pattern? What are the causes for the rises and falls in population?
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Don’t ask me – I don’t know. I do know that birth rates fall as standard of living increases, at least historically.
Worldwide, births have leveled off. Regionally, births are falling except in Africa. Many advanced nations have birth rates that fall below replacement and these nations can be shown to be importing workers from other less fortunate nations. The agricultural sector of the U.S. economy has been doing so for decades and is now doing so for the lower skills of the building trades.
I haven’t the slightest idea what this all means for human society over the next 50 years – but it is as obvious as noonday sunshine that there is no Ehrlich-ian Population Bomb going off.
Include the name the person to whom you speaking in your comment – if not just a general statement.
Thanks for reading.
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