Some 1,236,344,631 (2014 estimate) people—about one sixth of humanity—live in India, a country one-third the size of the United States.India is the second most populated nation on earth after China. It is expected to surpass China as the world's most populous nation by 2040. South Asia is home to roughly 20 percent of the world population. India is home to roughly 17 percent of the world population.

Population: 1,236,344,631 (July 2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 2. Age structure: 0-14 years: 28.5 percent (male 187,016,401/female 165,048,695); 15-24 years: 18.1 percent (male 118,696,540/female 105,342,764); 25-54 years: 40.6 percent (male 258,202,535/female 243,293,143); 55-64 years: 7 percent (male 43,625,668/female 43,175,111); 65 years and over: 5.7 percent (male 34,133,175/female 37,810,599) (2014 est.). Only about 31 percent of all Indians lives in urban areas (compared to 76 percent in the U.S.) and most of the remaining people live in small agricultural villages, many of them in the Ganges plain.[Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Median age: total: 27 years; male: 26.4 years; female: 27.7 years (2014 est.). Dependency ratios: total dependency ratio: 51.8 percent; youth dependency ratio: 43.6 percent; elderly dependency ratio: 8.1 percent; potential support ratio: 12.3 (2014 est.). =

Population growth rate: 1.25 percent (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 94. Birth rate: 19.89 births/1,000 population (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 86. Death rate: 7.35 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 118 Net migration rate: -0.05 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 112. =

The last census was conducted in 2010. Carried out by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India (part of the Ministry of Home Affairs), it was the seventh one conducted since India gained independence in 1947. The census before that was in 2001. According to the 2001 Indian census, the total population was 1,028,610,328, a 21.3 percent increase from 1991 and 2 percent average growth rate from 1975 to 2001.About 72 percent of the population resided in rural areas in 2001, yet the country has a population density of 324 persons per square kilometer. Major states have more than 400 persons per square kilometer, but population densities are around 150 persons or fewer per square kilometer in some border states and insular territories. [Source: Library of Congress, 2005]

In 2001 India’s birthrate was 25.4 per 1,000 population, its death rate was 8.4 per 1,000, and its infant mortality rate was 66 per 1,000 live births. In 1995 to 1997, India’s total fertility rate was 3.4 children per woman (4.5 in 1980–82). According to the 2001 Indian census, 35.3 percent of the population was under 14 years of age, 59.9 percent between 15 and 64, and 4.8 percent 65 and older (the 2004 estimates are, respectively, 31.7 percent, 63.5 percent, and 4.8 percent); the sex ratio was 933 females per 1,000 males. In 2004 India’s median age was estimated to be 24.4. From 1992 to 1996, overall life expectancy at birth was 60.7 years (60.1 years for males and 61.4 years for females) and was estimated to be 64 years in 2004 (63.3 for males and 64.8 for females).

India’s Large Population and China

India topped the 1 billion mark sometime in 1999. According to Indian census bureau, it takes two million Indians just to count the rest. Between 1947 and 1991, India's population more than doubled. India is expected to surpass China as the world's most populous nation by 2040.

India accounts for some 2.4 percent of the world's landmass but is home to about 17 percent of the global population. The magnitude of the annual increase in population can be seen in the fact that India adds almost the total population of Australia or Sri Lanka every year. A 1992 study of India's population notes that India has more people than all of Africa and also more than North America and South America together. [Source: Library of Congress]

China and India account for about a third of the world's population and 60 percent of Asia's population. There are about 1.5 billion people in China versus 1.2 billion in India. Even though India has a smaller population than China, India has twice as many per square kilometers than China. The fertility rate is nearly double that of China. About 18 million (72,000 a day) new people every year, compared to 13 million (60,000 million) in China. The average number of children (3.7) is nearly double that of China.

Estimates of India's population vary widely. The 1991 final census count gave India a total population of 846,302,688. According to the Population Division of the United Nations Department of International Economic and Social Affairs, the population had already reached 866 million in 1991. The Population Division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) projected 896.5 million by mid-1993 with a 1.9 percent annual growth rate. The United States Bureau of the Census, assuming an annual population growth rate of 1.8 percent, put India's population in July 1995 at 936,545,814. These higher projections merit attention in light of the fact that the Planning Commission had estimated a figure of 844 million for 1991 while preparing the Eighth Five-Year Plan.

History of the Population of India

Population of India was 80 million in 1900, 280 million in 1941, 340 million in 1952, 600 million 1976. Population increased from 846 million to 949 million between 1991 and 1997.

Throughout the twentieth century, India has been in the midst of a demographic transition. At the beginning of the century, endemic disease, periodic epidemics, and famines kept the death rate high enough to balance out the high birth rate. Between 1911 and 1920, the birth and death rates were virtually equal--about forty-eight births and forty-eight deaths per 1,000 population. The increasing impact of curative and preventive medicine (especially mass inoculations) brought a steady decline in the death rate. The annual population growth rate from 1981 to 1991 was 2 percent. By the mid-1990s, the estimated birth rate had fallen to twenty-eight per 1,000, and the estimated death rate had fallen to ten per 1,000. [Source: Library of Congress, 1995 *]

The upward population spiral began in the 1920s and is reflected in intercensal growth increments. South Asia's population increased roughly 5 percent between 1901 and 1911 and actually declined slightly in the next decade. Population increased some 10 percent in the period from 1921 to 1931 and 13 to 14 percent in the 1930s and 1940s. Between 1951 and 1961, the population rose 21.5 percent. Between 1961 and 1971, the country's population increased by 24.8 percent. Thereafter a slight slowing of the increase was experienced: from 1971 to 1981, the population increased by 24.7 percent, and from 1981 to 1991, by 23.9 percent. *

Population density has risen concomitantly with the massive increases in population. In 1901 India counted some seventy-seven persons per square kilometer; in 1981 there were 216 persons per square kilometer; by 1991 there were 267 persons per square kilometer--up almost 25 percent from the 1981 population density. India's average population density is higher than that of any other nation of comparable size. The highest densities are not only in heavily urbanized regions but also in areas that are mostly agricultural. *

Population growth in the years between 1950 and 1970 centered on areas of new irrigation projects, areas subject to refugee resettlement, and regions of urban expansion. Areas where population did not increase at a rate approaching the national average were those facing the most severe economic hardships, overpopulated rural areas, and regions with low levels of urbanization. *

Population Density in India

About 72 percent of the population resided in rural areas in 2001, yet the country has a population density of 324 persons per square kilometer. Major states have more than 400 persons per square kilometer, but population densities are around 150 persons or fewer per square kilometer in some border states and insular territories. [Source: Library of Congress, 2005 *]

India has a relatively high population density. One reason that India can sustain so many people is that 57 percent of its land is arable (compared to 21 percent in the United States and 11 percent in China). Another reason is that alluvial soils that cover the subcontinent which have washed down from the Himalayas are very fertile. ["Man on Earth" by John Reader, Perennial Library, Harper and Row.]

In the so called Hindu belt, 40 percent of India's population is crammed into four of the most impoverished and socially backward states. The most densely population regions include Kerala on the southwest coast, Bengal in northeast India and areas around he cities of Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Patna, and Lucknow.

The hilly, inaccessible regions of the Peninsular Plateau, the northeast, and the Himalayas remain sparsely settled. As a general rule, the lower the population density and the more remote the region, the more likely it is to count a substantial portion of tribal people among its population (see Tribals Under Minorities). Urbanization in some sparsely settled regions is more developed than would seem warranted at first glance at their limited natural resources. Areas of western India that were formerly princely states (in Gujarat and the desert regions of Rajasthan) have substantial urban centers that originated as political-administrative centers and since independence have continued to exercise hegemony over their hinterlands. *

Where People Live in India

The vast majority of Indians, nearly 625 million, or 73.9 percent, in 1991 lived in what are called villages of less than 5,000 people or in scattered hamlets and other rural settlements. The states with proportionately the greatest rural populations in 1991 were the states of Assam (88.9 percent), Sikkim (90.9 percent) and Himachal Pradesh (91.3 percent), and the tiny union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli (91.5 percent). Those with the smallest rural populations proportionately were the states of Gujarat (65.5 percent), Maharashtra (61.3 percent), Goa (58.9 percent), and Mizoram (53.9 percent). Most of the other states and the union territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were near the national average. [Source: Library of Congress, 1995 *]

The results of the 1991 census revealed that around 221 million, or 26.1 percent, of Indian's population lived in urban areas. Of this total, about 138 million people, or 16 percent, lived in the 299 urban agglomerations. In 1991 the twenty-four metropolitan cities accounted for 51 percent of India's total population living in Class I urban centers, with Bombay and Calcutta the largest at 12.6 million and 10.9 million, respectively. *

An urban agglomeration forms a continuous urban spread and consists of a city or town and its urban outgrowth outside the statutory limits. Or, an urban agglomerate may be two or more adjoining cities or towns and their outgrowths. A university campus or military base located on the outskirts of a city or town, which often increases the actual urban area of that city or town, is an example of an urban agglomeration. In India urban agglomerations with a population of 1 million or more--there were twenty-four in 1991--are referred to as metropolitan areas. Places with a population of 100,000 or more are termed "cities" as compared with "towns," which have a population of less than 100,000. Including the metropolitan areas, there were 299 urban agglomerations with more than 100,000 population in 1991. These large urban agglomerations are designated as Class I urban units. There were five other classes of urban agglomerations, towns, and villages based on the size of their populations: Class II (50,000 to 99,999), Class III (20,000 to 49,999), Class IV (10,000 to 19,999), Class V (5,000 to 9,999), and Class VI (villages of less than 5,000). *

The majority of districts had urban populations ranging on average from 15 to 40 percent in 1991. According to the 1991 census, urban clusters predominated in the upper part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain; in the Punjab and Haryana plains, and in part of western Uttar Pradesh. The lower part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain in southeastern Bihar, southern West Bengal, and northern Orissa also experienced increased urbanization. Similar increases occurred in the western coastal state of Gujarat and the union territory of Daman and Diu. In the Central Highlands in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, urbanization was most noticeable in the river basins and adjacent plateau regions of the Mahanadi, Narmada, and Tapti rivers. The coastal plains and river deltas of the east and west coasts also showed increased levels of urbanization. *

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

Two other categories of population that are closely scrutinized by the national census are the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.The greatest concentrations of Scheduled Caste members in 1991 lived in the states of Andhra Pradesh (10.5 million, or nearly 16 percent of the state's population), Tamil Nadu (10.7 million, or 19 percent), Bihar (12.5 million, or 14 percent), West Bengal (16 million, or 24 percent), and Uttar Pradesh (29.3 million, or 21 percent). Together, these and other Scheduled Caste members comprised about 139 million people, or more than 16 percent of the total population of India. [Source: Library of Congress, 1995 *]

Scheduled Tribe members represented only 8 percent of the total population (about 68 million). They were found in 1991 in the greatest numbers in Orissa (7 million, or 23 percent of the state's population), Maharashtra (7.3 million, or 9 percent), and Madhya Pradesh (15.3 million, or 23 percent). In proportion, however, the populations of states in the northeast had the greatest concentrations of Scheduled Tribe members. For example, 31 percent of the population of Tripura, 34 percent of Manipur, 64 percent of Arunachal Pradesh, 86 percent of Meghalaya, 88 percent of Nagaland, and 95 percent of Mizoram were Scheduled Tribe members. Other heavy concentrations were found in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, 79 percent of which was composed of Scheduled Tribe members, and Lakshadweep, with 94 percent of its population being Scheduled Tribe members.

Population Growth in India

Population growth rate: 1.25 percent (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 94. Birth rate: 19.89 births/1,000 population (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 86. Death rate: 7.35 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 118 Net migration rate: -0.05 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 112. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Total fertility rate: 2.51 children born/woman (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 81 Mother's mean age at first birth: 19.9 (2005-06 est.) Contraceptive prevalence rate: 54.8 percent (2007/08). Access to better health care has meant that Indians are living longer. One in six women who give birth are between the age 15 an 19. Teenage girls who give birth each year: 7 percent (compared to less than 1 percent in Japan, 5 percent in the United States and 16 percent in Nicaragua).

India produces more babies than any other country. One in every five people born is an Indian. The population of India is growing at a rate of about 20 million new people every year (roughly the population of Australia). India grew by 181 million in the 1990s, three times the population of France. As of 2000, the population of India increased at a rate of 48,000 a day, 2,000 an hour and 33 a minute.

The states with the highest population growth are Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and the small tribal states east of Assam. The states with the lowest population growth are the southern states of Andhara Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In the early 1990s, growth was the most dramatic in the cities of central and southern India. About twenty cities in those two regions experienced a growth rate of more than 100 percent between 1981 and 1991. Areas subject to an influx of refugees also experienced noticeable demographic changes. Refugees from Bangladesh, Burma, and Sri Lanka contributed substantially to population growth in the regions in which they settled. Less dramatic population increases occurred in areas where Tibetan refugee settlements were founded after the Chinese annexation of Tibet in the 1950s.

For both boys and girls, infant mortality rates tend to be high, and in the absence of confidence that their infants will live, parents tend to produce numerous offspring in the hope that at least two sons will survive to adulthood.

Population growth strains India’s infrastructure and natural resources. India does not have enough schools, hospitals or sanitation facilities to meet the needs of its people. Forests, water supplies and agricultural lands are shrinking at an alarming rate.

One consequence of a low birth rate is an increasingly older population. In 1990, about 7 percent of the population was over 60 years old. That rate is expected to increase to 13 percent in 2030.

Future of Population Growth

Significant reductions in the population rate are decades away The fertility rate isn’t expected to drop to 2.16—essentially the break-even point—until 2030, maybe 2050. But because of momentum the population will continue to grow for decades more. Scientists say that India will reach zero population growth by around 2081, but by that time her population will be 1.6 billion, more than double what it was in the mid 1990s.

The Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India (both positions are held by the same person) oversees an ongoing intercensal effort to help maintain accurate annual estimates of population. The projection method used in the mid-1980s to predict the 1991 population, which was accurate enough to come within 3 million (843 million) of the official, final census count in 1991 (846 million), was based on the Sample Registration System. The system employed birth and death rates from each of the twenty-five states, six union territories, and one national capital territory plus statistical data on effective contraceptive use. Assuming a 1.7 percent error rate, India's projection for 1991 was close to those made by the World Bank and the UN.[Source: Library of Congress, 1995 *]

Projections of future population growth prepared by the Registrar General, assuming the highest level of fertility, show decreasing growth rates: 1.8 percent by 2001, 1.3 percent by 2011, and 0.9 percent by 2021. These rates of growth, however, put India's population above 1.0 billion in 2001, at 1.2 billion in 2011, and at 1.3 billion in 2021. ESCAP projections published in 1993 were close to those made by India: nearly 1.2 billion by 2010, still considerably less than the 2010 population projection for China of 1.4 billion. In 1992 the Washington-based Population Reference Bureau had a similar projection to ESCAP's for India's population in 2010 and projected nearly 1.4 billion by 2025 (nearly the same as projected for 2025 by the United Nations Department of International Economic and Social Affairs). According to other UN projections, India's population may stabilize at around 1.7 billion by 2060.

Such projections also show an increasingly aging population, with 76 million (8 percent of the population) age sixty and above in 2001, 102 million (9 percent) in 2011, and 137 million (11 percent) in 2021. These figures coincide closely with those estimated by the United States Bureau of the Census, which also projected that whereas the median age was twenty-two in 1992, it was expected to increase to twenty-nine by 2020, placing the median age in India well above all of its South Asian neighbors except Sri Lanka.

Population Growth and Fertility Rates

A fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman is necessary to keep the population from starting to shrink. Each year around 80 million are added to the world’s population, a number roughly equivalent to the population of Germany, Vietnam or Ethiopia. People under 25 comprise 43 per cent of the world’s population. [Source: State of the World Population 2011, UN Population Fund, October 2011, AFP, October 29, 2011]

Populations have soared with the development of technology and medicine that have greatly reduced infant mortality and significantly increased the life span of the average individual. People in poor countries today in many cases are giving birth to the same number of children they always have. The only difference is that more children are living, and they are living longer. The average life expectancy rose from about 48 years in the early 1950s to about 68 in the first decade of the new millennium. Infant mortality fell by nearly two-thirds.

Around 2,000 years ago, the world’s population was around 300 million. Around 1800, it reached a billion. The second billion was notched up in 1927. The three billion mark was swiftly reached in 1959, rose to four billion in 1974, then accelerated to five billion in 1987, six billion in 1999 and seven billion in 2011.

One of the paradoxes of population control is that the overall population can continues to rise even when fertility rates drop below 2.1 children. This is because a high fertility rate in the past means a large percentage of women are at childbearing age and are having children, plus people are living longer. The main reason for the demographic surge of recent decades has been the Baby Boom of the 1950s and 1960s, which shows up in ensuing “bulges” when this generation reproduces.

Young Populations and Why Poor Families Have So Many Children

Socioeconomic worries, practical concern and spiritual interests all help explain why villagers have such large families. Rural farmer have traditionally had many children because they need the labor to grow their crops and take care of chores. Poor women traditionally had many children in hope that some would survive until adulthood.

Children are also seen as insurance policies for old age. It is their responsibility to take care of their parents when they get old. Moreover, some cultures believe that parents need children to care for them in the afterlife and that people who die childless end up as tormented souls who come back and haunt relatives.

A large percentage of population in the developing world is under the age of 15. When this generation enters the labor force in the coming years, unemployment will get worse. Youth populations are large because traditional birth-and-death rate has been broken only within the last few decades. This means that many children are still being born because there are still a lot of women of child-bearing age. The main factor that determines the age rate of a population is not life span but birthrates with a decline in birthrates resulting in an aging population.

Problems Caused by Overpopulation

Despite the introduction of aggressive family planning programs in the 1950s and 60s, the population in the developing world is still rising at high rates. One study found that if fertility rates remain unchanged the population will reach 134 trillion in 300 years.

Overpopulation creates land shortages, increases the number of unemployed and underemployed, overwhelms infrastructure and aggravates deforestation and desertification and other environmental problems.

Technology often makes overpopulation problems worse. The conversion of small farms to large cash-crop agribusiness farms and industrial complexes factories, for example, ends up displacing thousands of people from the land that could be used to grow food that people could eat.

In the 19th century, Thomas Malthus wrote "the passion between the sexes is necessary and will remain" but "the power of population is infinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man."

In the 1960s, Paul Ehrlich wrote in the Population Bomb , that "famines of unbelievable proportions" were imminent and feeding the growing population was a "totally impossible in practice." He said that “the cancer of population growth must be cut out” or “we will breed ourselves into oblivion.” He appeared on Johnny Carson’s Tonight show 25 times to drive home the point.

Population and Food

Malthusian pessimists predict that population growth will eventually outstrip the food supply; optimists predict that technological advances in food production can keep pace with population increases.

In many of the world most populous areas food production has lagged behind population growth and the population has already outstripped the availability of land and water. But worldwide, improvements in agriculture have managed to keep pace with population. Even though the world population increased 105 percent between 1955 and 1995, agricultural productivity increased 124 percent in the same period. Over the past three centuries, the food supply has grown faster than demand, and the price of staples has dropped dramatically (wheat by 61 percent and corn by 58 percent).

Now one hectare land feeds about 4 people. Since populations are rising but the amount of arable land is more finite, it estimated that a hectare will need to feed 6 people to keep pace with population growth and diet changes that come with prosperity.

Today hunger is more often the result inequitable distribution of resources rather a scarcity of food and famines are the result of wars and natural disasters. When asked about whether the world can feed itself, one Chinese nutrition expert told National Geographic, "I've devoted my life to the study of food supplies, diet and nutrition. Your question goes beyond those fields. Can the Earth feed all those people? That, I'm afraid, is strictly a political question."

Population and Poverty

Commenting on whether rapid population growth keeps poor countries poor, Nicholas Eberstadt wrote in the Washington Post, “In 1960, South Korea and Taiwan were poor countries with fast-growing populations. Over the two decades that followed, South Korea’s population surged by about 50 percent, and Taiwan’s by about 65 percent. Yet, income increased in both places, too: Between 1960 and 1980, per capita economic growth averaged 6.2 percent in South Korea and 7 percent in Taiwan.” [Source: Nicholas Eberstadt, Washington Post November 4, 2011 ==]

“Clearly, rapid population growth did not preclude an economic boom in those two Asian “tigers”---and their experience underscores that of the world as a whole. Between 1900 and 2000, as the planet’s population was exploding, per capita income grew faster than ever before, rising nearly fivefold, by the reckoning of economic historian Angus Maddison . And for much of the last century, the countries with faster economic growth tended to be the ones where population was growing most rapidly, too.

“Today, the fastest population growth is found in so-called failed states, where poverty is worst. But it’s not clear that population growth is their central problem: With physical security, better policies and greater investments in health and education, there is no reason that fragile states could not enjoy sustained improvements in income.” ==

Population, Economic Growth and the Environment

In October 2011 after it was announced the world population reached seven billion,the Economist reported: “In 1980 Julian Simon, an economist, and Paul Ehrlich, a biologist, made a bet. Mr Ehrlich, author of a bestselling book, called “The Population Bomb”, picked five metals---copper, chromium, nickel, tin and tungsten---and said their prices would rise in real terms over the following ten years. Mr Simon bet that prices would fall. The wager symbolised the dispute between Malthusians who thought a rising population would create an age of scarcity (and high prices) and those “Cornucopians”, such as Mr Simon, who thought markets would ensure plenty. [Source: The Economist, October 22, 2011 ***]

“Mr Simon won easily. Prices of all five metals fell in real terms. As the world economy boomed and population growth began to ebb in the 1990s, Malthusian pessimism retreated. [Now] it is returning. If Messrs Simon and Ehrlich had ended their bet today, instead of in 1990, Mr Ehrlich would have won. What with high food prices, environmental degradation and faltering green policies, people are again worrying that the world is overcrowded. Some want restrictions to cut population growth and forestall ecological catastrophe. Are they right? ***

“Lower fertility can be good for economic growth and society. When the number of children a woman can expect to bear in her lifetime falls from high levels of three or more to a stable rate of two, a demographic change surges through the country for at least a generation. Children are scarcer, the elderly are not yet numerous, and the country has a bulge of working-age adults: the “demographic dividend”. If a country grabs this one-off chance for productivity gains and investment, economic growth can jump by as much as a third. ***

“When Mr Simon won his bet he was able to say that rising population was not a problem: increased demand attracts investment, producing more. But this process only applies to things with a price; not if they are free, as are some of the most important global goods---a healthy atmosphere, fresh water, non-acidic oceans, furry wild animals. Perhaps, then, slower population growth would reduce the pressure on fragile environments and conserve unpriced resources? ***

“That idea is especially attractive when other forms of rationing— a carbon tax, water pricing— are struggling. Yet the populations that are rising fastest contribute very little to climate change. The poorest half of the world produces 7 percent of carbon emissions. The richest 7 percent produces half the carbon. So the problem lies in countries like China, America and Europe, which all have stable populations. Moderating fertility in Africa might boost the economy or help stressed local environments. But it would not solve global problems. ***

Underpopulation and Population Growth Declines

Contraception, prosperity and changing cultural attitudes have also brought about a fall in fertility, from a statistical 6.0 children per woman to 2.5 over six decades. In more advanced economies, the average fertility rate today is about 1.7 children per woman, below the replacement level of 2.1. In the least developed countries, the rate is 4.2 births, with sub-Saharan African reporting 4.8. [Source: State of the World Population 2011, UN Population Fund, October 2011, AFP, October 29, 2011]

In some parts of the world, families are having fewer than two children, and the population has stopped growing and begun a very slow decline. The disadvantages of this phenomena include an increased burden of elderly people that younger people have to support, an aging work force, and slower economic growth. Among the advantages are a stable work force, a smaller burden of children to support and educate, lower crime rates, less pressure on resources, less pollution and other environmental deterioration. Right now about 25 to 30 percent of the population is over the age of 65. With the low birth rate this figure is expected to rise to 40 percent by 2030.

Population growth rates in nearly all counties have declined in the last 30 years. According to a United Nations report based on 1995 data the total fertility rate for entire world was 2.8 percent and falling. The fertility rate in the developing world has been cut in half from six children per woman in 1965 to three children per woman in 1995.

Fertilely rates have been declining in the developing world and middle income countries as well as in the developed world . In South Korea, the fertility rate fell from roughly five kids to two between 1965 and 1985. In Iran it fell from seven kids to two between 1984 and 2006. The fewer children a women has the more likely the are to survive.

In most places the result have been achieved without coercion. This phenomena has been attributed to massive education campaigns, more clinics, inexpensive contraception and improving the status and education of women.

In the past a lots of children may have been an insurance policy against old age and a means of working the farm but for rising middle class and working people having too many children is an impediment to getting a car or taking a family trip.

Commenting on population declines and declining growth, Nicholas Eberstadt wrote in the Washington Post, “Between the 1840s and 1960s, Ireland’s population collapsed, spiraling downward from 8.3 million to 2.9 million. Over roughly that same period, however, Ireland’s per capita gross domestic product tripled. More recently, Bulgaria and Estonia have both suffered sharp population contractions of close to 20 percent since the end of the Cold War, yet both have enjoyed sustained surges in wealth: Between 1990 and 2010 alone, Bulgaria’s per capita income (taking into account the purchasing power of the population) soared by more than 50 percent, and Estonia’s by more than 60 percent. In fact, virtually all of the former Soviet bloc countries are experiencing depopulation today, yet economic growth has been robust in this region, the global downturn notwithstanding. [Source: Nicholas Eberstadt, Washington Post November 4, 2011]

A nation’s income depends on more than its population size or its rate of population growth. National wealth also reflects productivity, which in turn depends on technological prowess, education, health, the business and regulatory climate, and economic policies. A society in demographic decline, to be sure, can veer into economic decline, but that outcome is hardly preordained.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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