A Fatal Misconception

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A Fatal Misconception

Despite the research presented in Trends and elsewhere, most of the world's political leaders still seem worried about a "population explosion" in the coming decades:

China is still vigorously pursuing its "one child" policy by punishing parents who disobey the law.  In India, abortion is such a common "family planning tool," that the British medical journal The Lancet1 estimates that 10 million female fetuses have been aborted over the past two decades.

Even the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has written an article calling the expected increase in

the world's population by 2050 an "impending calamity."

Johnson is correct that a demographic calamity is likely to occur by the middle of the century.  But he — and all of the other politicians and pundits who are worried about the population explosion — are making a huge miscalculation:  The reality is that the world's population will be shrinking, not growing.

Why?  In the past half-century, birthrates have dropped by 50 percent.  Today, 59 countries, representing 44 percent of the world's population, are below the replacement fertility rate.

Replacement fertility is defined as 2.1 births per woman, which is

the rate needed to keep the population at its current level.  Amazingly, the continent of Europe is at a birthrate of just 1.3, and none of the countries in Europe has a replacement-level birthrate. 

To understand this, consider the birthrates of a few specific countries:

  • Czech Republic 1.17
  • Republic of Korea 1.17
  • Ukraine 1.17
  • Spain 1.24
  • Bulgaria 1.24
  • Russian Federation 1.25
  • Italy 1.26
  • Greece 1.28
  • Poland 1.29
  • Austria 1.31
  • Hungary 1.31
  • Estonia 1.34
  • Japan 1.37
  • Croatia 1.37
  • China 1...

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