The Public Interest

World population implosion?

Nicholas Eberstadt

Fall 1997

OVER the past several years, some of the world’s best demographers have begun a dramatic reassessment of the world’s demographic future. They are now seriously proposing the possibility that the world’s population rather than continuing to increase will in our lifetimes peak, and then commence an indefinite decline in the generations immediately ahead. This demographic scenario is implicitly reflected in, among other places, the United Nations Population Division’s biennial compendium, World Population Prospects— the oldest, largest, and most intensive of various contemporary attempts to envision and outline likely future demographic trends. The forthcoming edition of that volume, The 1996 Revision, will include “low variant” projections that anticipate zero population growth for the world as a whole by  the year 2040, and negative growth—that is to say, depopulation-thereafter.

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