PG4C. Stay Current—The History of Human Population Growth

2024-04-02. Population tipping point could arrive by 2030. [] By TYLER SANTORA, Science. Excerpt: Two point one: That’s how many children everyone able to give birth must have to keep the human population from beginning to fall. Demographers have long expected the world will dip below this magic number—known as the replacement level—in the coming decades. A new study published last month in The Lancet, however, puts the tipping point startlingly near: as soon as 2030. It’s no surprise that fertility is dropping in many countries, which demographers attribute to factors such as higher education levels among people who give birth, rising incomes, and expanded access to contraceptives. The United States is at 1.6 instead of the requisite 2.1, for example, and China and Taiwan are hovering at about 1.2 and one, respectively. But other predictions have estimated more time before the human population reaches the critical juncture. The United Nations Population Division, in a 2022 report, put this tipping point at 2056, and earlier this year, the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, a multidisciplinary research organization dedicated to studying population dynamics, forecasted 2040….

2022-12-22. U.S. Population Ticks Up, but the Rate of Growth Stays Near Historic Lows. [] By Robert Gebeloff and Dana Goldstein, The New York Times. Excerpt: The pace of population growth picked up in the United States this year, driven primarily by immigration, but it remains near historically low levels, according to new estimates released on Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The population as of July 1 stood at 333.3 million, up about 0.4 percent compared with 12 months earlier, the biggest single-year increase since 2019 but still one of the slowest growth rates in the nation’s history. The nation grew by less than 0.2 percent in 2021, which was the lowest one-year increase on record. The overall population gain was 1.26 million, of which immigration accounted for one million….

2019-09-17. Almost Everywhere, Fewer Children Are Dying. By Josh Katz, Alicia Parlapiano and Margot Sanger-Katz, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: Two decades ago, nearly 10 million children did not live to see a 5th birthday. By 2017, that number — about 1 in every 16 children — was nearly cut in half, even as the world’s population increased by more than a billion people. The sharp decline in childhood mortality reflects work by governments and international aid groups to fight child poverty and the diseases that are most lethal to poor children: neonatal disorders, pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. But the results are also highly imbalanced. In some places, children’s health has improved drastically. In others, many still die very early. … From 2000 to 2017, all but one of the 97 low-to-middle-income countries that account for the vast majority of deaths of young children lowered their child mortality rates, according to a report [] released Tuesday by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with a research team at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, led by Stephen Lim, the institute’s senior director of science and engineering. …“The inequality in that progress is still quite stunning,” Mr. Gates said in a call with reporters…. 

2019-06-17. World Population Prospects 2019. By United Nations Dept of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. [] Excerpt: …Nine countries will make up more than half the projected population growth between now and 2050. The largest increases in population between 2019 and 2050 will take place in: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States of America (in descending order of the expected increase). Around 2027, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country…. Highlights [], Ten Key Findings [], Quick Navigation [], Press Conference [], . The main results are presented in a series of Excel files [] displaying key demographic indicators for each UN development group, World Bank income group, geographic region, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) region, subregion and country or area for selected periods or dates within 1950-2100….  

2014-01-15. Planetary dashboard shows “Great Acceleration” in human activity since 1950. Global Change, International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme. A decade on, IGBP in collaboration with the Stockholm Resilience Centre has reassessed and updated the Great Acceleration indicators, first published in the IGBP synthesis, Global Change and the Earth System in 2004….

2012-04-09.  Population growth: Fastest growing urban area?  It may surprise you | by Emily Alpert, The Los Angeles Times World Now Blog. Excerpt: …Africa and Asia are expected to make up 86% of the growth in urban populations worldwide in the decades leading up to 2050, according to the United Nations. Newly released estimates show the urban population in Africa is expected to roughly triple, exceeding 1.2 billion; urbanites in Asia will soar from 1.9 billion to 3.3 billion. There’s an upside to urbanization: Educating people and bringing them other services is easier when they’re clustered in cities. The downside: Countries will have to scramble to provide enough urban jobs, housing, energy and infrastructure to avoid an explosion of slums, the U.N. says….  Full article at

2010 May 26. Gulf Coast population surges, but will it last? By Hope Yen, Associated Press. Excerpt: …The population of counties situated along the Gulf of Mexico is rising sharply but demographers warn that the trend won’t last because of a constant threat of hurricanes and uncertainty over the current oil spill. 
…The report found that the Gulf Coast population – which includes counties in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and western Florida – jumped by 150 percent since 1960 to about 14 million, as people shied away from coastal living in more crowded areas along the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. 
…That Gulf Coast growth surpassed all other U.S. regions, and is more than double the rate of increase for the nation as a whole. Noncoastal areas also lagged, rising 64 percent to nearly 220 million despite the growing popularity of inland cities located in the Sunbelt. 
… “The last two decades showed that the Gulf Coast has become a more affordable alternative for those priced out of the Atlantic and Pacific coastal magnets,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings Institution. “But the recent spate of hurricanes and now the oil spill could dampen their attraction. This should bring even greater gains for noncoastal Sunbelt destinations once the housing market revives.” 

January 18. Genome Study Provides a Census of Early Humans. By Nicholas Wade, The NY Times. Excerpt: From the composition of just two human genomes, geneticists have computed the size of the human population 1.2 million years ago from which everyone in the world is descended.
They put the number at 18,500 people, but this refers only to breeding individuals, the “effective” population. The actual population would have been about three times as large, or 55,500.
…In biological terms, it seems, humans were not a very successful species, and the strategy of investing in larger brains than those of their fellow apes had not yet produced any big payoff. Human population numbers did not reach high levels until after the advent of agriculture.
Geneticists have long known that the ancestors of modern humans numbered as few as 10,000 at some time in the last 100,000 years. The critically low number suggested that some catastrophe, like disease or climate change induced by a volcano, had brought humans close to the brink of extinction.
If the new estimate is correct, however, human population size has been small and fairly constant throughout most of the last million years, ruling out the need to look for a catastrophe…. 

2004 September. India’s Population to Surpass China’s By 2035. The 2004 World Population Data Sheet, released this month by thePopulation Reference Bureau,, projects an overall global population increase of 45% to 9.3 billion people by the year 2050. The United States is expected to remain the third most populous country through that year, falling behind India, which will become the most populous country, and China, which will drop to number two. PRB predicts that most of the population growth will occur in the developing countries, despite higher HIV/AIDS infection rates and higher infant mortality rates than in the developed world. The figures assume that HIV/AIDS prevalence in Africa will peak in 10-15 years and then rates will drop on the continent, where they are already decreasing in 14 of 38 countries. The gap between the developed and developing countries’ figures is also attributed to aging populations, along with more frequent contraceptive use and lower birth rates in several European countries. 

cover for GSS book Population Growth

Non-chronological resources

Population Density Maps —

Videos from Al Bartlett, Professor Emeritus at University of Colorado at Boulder, about exponential growth.

World Population Video (on Population Connection website)