Monday, January 04, 2010 1/4/10 - population surprises

In today's excerpt - the combined populations
of Europe,
the United States, and Canada (often referred
to simply as "The West") has declined from 33
percent of the world's population in 1913 to
just 17 percent in 2003, as these countries'
fertility rates have declined and many
European countries now have shrinking

"At the beginning of the eighteenth century,
approximately 20 percent
of the world's inhabitants lived in Europe
(including Russia). Then,
with the Industrial Revolution, Europe's
population boomed, and
streams of European emigrants set off for the
Americas. By the eve
of World War I, Europe's population had more
than quadrupled. In
1913, Europe had more people than China, and
the proportion of the
world's population living in Europe and the
former European colonies
of North America had risen to over 33

"But this trend reversed after World War I,
as basic health care and
sanitation began to spread to poorer
countries. In Asia, Africa, and Latin
America, people began to live longer, and
birthrates remained high or fell only slowly.
By 2003, the combined populations of Europe,
the United States, and Canada accounted for
just 17 percent of the
global population. In 2050, this figure is
expected to be just 12 percent -
far less than it was in 1700. (These
projections, moreover, might
even understate the reality because they
reflect the 'medium growth'
projection of the UN forecasts, which assumes
that the fertility
rates of developing countries will decline
while those of developed
countries will increase. In fact, many
developed countries show no
evidence of increasing fertility rates.)

"According to the economic
historian Angus Maddison, Europe, the United
States, and Canada
together produced about 32 percent of the
world's GDP at the beginning
of the nineteenth century. By 1950, that
proportion had increased to
a remarkable 68 percent of the world's total
output (adjusted to reflect
purchasing power parity). This trend, too, is
headed for a sharp reversal. The proportion of
global GDP produced by Europe, the United
States, and Canada fell
from 68 percent in 1950 to 47 percent in 2003
and will decline even
more steeply in the future. ...

"The year 2010 will likely be the first time
in history that a majority of the world's people
live in cities rather than in the
countryside. Whereas less than 30 percent of
the world's population was urban in 1950,
according to UN
projections, more than 70 percent will be by
2050. Lower-income countries in Asia and
Africa are urbanizing especially
rapidly, as agriculture becomes less labor
intensive and as employment
opportunities shift to the industrial and
service sectors. Already, most
of the world's urban agglomerations - Mumbai
(population 20.l million), Mexico City (19.5
million), New Delhi (17 million), Shanghai
(15.8 million), Calcutta (15.6 million),
Karachi (13.1 million), Cairo
(12.5 million), Manila (11.7 million), Lagos
(10.6 million), Jakarta (9.7 million) - are
found in low-income countries. Many of these
have multiple cities with over one million
residents each: Pakistan has
eight, Mexico 12, and China more than

Jack A. Goldstone, "The New Population Bomb,"
Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2010, pp.
32-33, 38.


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