Rapid Population Growth Is Still A Problem

October 15, 1998

NEW YORK -- Current trends in reproductive behavior differ sharply between regions and should not be confused, says Population Council vice president John Bongaarts. "In the already crowded developing world, despite plummeting fertility rates, both the number of births and population size will keep growing. The expected addition of several billion more people will hamper ongoing efforts to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. On the other hand, in parts of the developed world, particularly Europe and Japan, already low fertility is causing consternation over the potential adverse effects of an aging or declining population. This concern should not be overblown, however, since reported fertility measures do not reflect the fact that couples are still having about two children, they're just having them at an older age. Fertility rates are not as low as they appear to be."

World Is Only At Mid-Point In Population Growth

Bongaarts points out in the October 16, 1998 issue of Science that contraceptive use in the developing world, once rare, is now widespread: the average number of births per woman has fallen by half, from the traditional six or more to near three today. This "revolution in reproductive behavior," says Bongaarts, has led some to speculate that "the world population explosion is over." But instead of being near the end of the "explosion" with today's population of 5.9 billion, Bongaarts comments, "we are just past its mid-point. After a record-breaking increase of 2 billion people over the past 25 years, the same increase is projected over the next 25 years, and a further expansion to 10.4 billion is expected by 2100."

Large increases in population growth are expected in Africa, Asia, and Latin America for three reasons, Bongaarts says:
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