World Population Projections

Population Projections Aren’t Just for Data Nerds

Everyone from policymakers to city planners to farmers and builders relies on population projections to some extent. Projections of the future population—whether global, national, or municipal—are crucial for any sort of planning, whether for school enrollment, Social Security benefits, or demand for housing units.

Therefore, the demographers who create these projections do so with the finest attention to detail and the best data they can obtain. They know that their projections will be taken as gospel, especially by the news media, even though they’re really just the most sophisticated kind of educated guess. We’ve all heard that the global population WILL BE 9 billion in 2050, as if there’s nothing that could alter that course. As you will see below, there is actually a range in the projections that go out to 2050.

According to the UN, there is a 95% chance that the population in 2050 will be between 9.0 billion and 10.1 billion people. In order for it to actually stick closer to the 9 billion that everyone is planning for, family planning programs—especially in the countries with the highest fertility rates—need to be ramped up and expanded to reach more people with a wider array of contraceptive services.

The know-how is there, as is the demand (225 million women in the developing world do not want to become pregnant within the next two years but are not using birth control). What is lacking is funding. Experts estimate that it would cost $9.4 billion to provide modern contraceptives to all women in the developing world who need them. Our primary advocacy goal is to increase the amount of U.S. foreign assistance for international family planning in order to help some of those 225 million women who wish to delay or prevent pregnancy.

If you are, indeed, a data nerd, there is a wealth of information on the United Nations Population Division website, and it’s available in many forms to anyone with an internet connection. You can also email our resident data miner, Marian Starkey, with questions.

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