Population Bombing – Watts Up With That?

Kip Hansen News Roundup – April 6, 2022

NATURE The magazine published a review of a new book by Jennifer D. Sciubba titled: “8 billion and counting: how sex, death and migration shape our world”.

Quoting the Nature review:

“Japan is aging so rapidly that if current trends continue, the nation could eventually disappear entirely,” writes Jennifer Sciubba in her data-packed book 8 Billion and Counting.

Almost eight billion people live on Earth; their futures are wildly divergent, argues Sciubba, a senior associate at the Washington DC think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The 21st 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,” he writes.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, East and Southeast Asia, Europe and North America, Australia, and New Zealand, the total fertility rate (TFR), or the average number of children a woman is likely to have have in their lifetime, was below replacement level (about 2.1 children per woman) in 2020. By contrast, the population of sub-Saharan Africa will multiply by six this century; its TFR is 4.72, down from 5.88 two decades ago. In Nigeria, children and adolescents make up half of the population. In the rural towns of South Korea, primary schools are closing due to lack of students, while the urban areas of Lagos resonate “with the sounds of children playing”….

The book is fascinating, but there are no real surprises in it for those who really follow population trends. [ I certainly hope that the book reviewer is misquoting the book author about Japan “eventually disappearing.” ]

You may 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 side of the graph and the width of the colored area. Asia, as 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 eider, more and more births. It’s harder to see, but Europe is narrowing with fewer births, and North America is more or less stable. Births in Latin America and the Caribbean are increasing.

The second interesting thing is that births dropped dramatically in the 1970s and 1990s. One could speculate that the widespread use of the birth control pill after 1965 caused the first drop. The slump of the 1990s is best explained by this regional fertility chart:

In this study, we see the fertility rate plummeting in East Asia falling below replacement level during the 1990s. Note that Africa is not in this chart. China’s “one child policy” was not implemented until 1980.

Our world in data offers this speculative version:

The two main trails are Africa, which is the obvious outlier with TFR greater than 4, while the rest of the world is 2.5 and below. The breakdown chart shows the number of regions that are already below replacement level, which includes North America, South America, and Europe.

One more then the readers can discuss the news:

Here we see that the growth of the world population (the uppermost trace) mirrors the growth of Asia (the dark red, the second downward trace). However, the sharp drop in Asian growth is clearly being offset by rising growth in Africa, which is the only region showing substantial growth.

And for the Total World Population? The numbers are increasing and will continue to increase as human life spans increase and reproduction does not stop. The United Nations predicts that it will peak at around 11 billion around 2100.

What are the reasons for this pattern? What are the causes of population increases and decreases?

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Author Comment:

Don’t ask me, I don’t know. I know that birth rates fall as living standards rise, at least historically.

Around the world, births have leveled off. Regionally, births are falling except in Africa. Many advanced nations have birth rates falling below replacement and these nations can be shown to be importing workers from other less fortunate nations. The agricultural sector of the US economy has been doing it for decades and is now doing it for the lower skills of the construction trades.

I have no idea what all this will mean for human society over the next 50 years, but it is as obvious as the midday sun that there is no Ehrlichian population bomb.

Please include the name of the person you are speaking with in your comment, if it is not just a general statement.

Thank you for reading.

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