Monday, January 18, 2016

Changing world population balances, 1800 to 2100

The Russian Demographics Blog was the most recent source to link to Max Galka's remarkable map showing changing populations in the recent past and the projected future.

For thousands of years, Asia has been the population center of the world. But that’s about to change.

Asia contains 7 of the 10 most populous countries in the world, the two largest of which, China and India, each individually have larger populations than Africa, Europe, or the Americas. And as I’ve demonstrated previously, the eye-popping population density in regions such as Tokyo and Bangladesh is an order of magnitude greater than anywhere in the western world.

Two hundred years ago, the figures were even more extreme. In 1800, nearly two thirds of the world lived in Asia. And at that time China had a larger population than Africa, Europe, and the Americas combined.

Asia dominates the world population landscape, and it has for at least the last two and a half thousand years. [. . . T]he relative population sizes of Asia, Africa, and Europe have remained surprisingly constant for thousands of years. Since at least 400 BC, 60% or more of the world has lived in Asia.

According to the U.N. Population Division, the population of Africa is poised to explode during the next 85 years, quadrupling in size by 2100.

The U.N. attributes this change to two factors: Africa’s high fertility rates (African women have on average 4.7 children vs. a global average of 2.5) and its young population, many of whom will be reaching adulthood in the coming years and having children of their own.


Colin said...

I was looking recently at the UN projections of what the most populous countries will be in 2100. Most were not surprising, but one that really stuck out to me was Niger, projected to be #10 in the world with something like 200 million people, giving it a population density comparable to present-day China. What's striking is that we're talking about a rather arid country with an economy largely based on subsistence agriculture and a bit of mining. Obviously 2100 is a long time away, and by then Niger could have an advanced economy and the ability to either import water or produce it somehow using technology that doesn't exist yet. But what if it doesn't? How are we supposed to imagine a Niger of 200 million people?

Ben said...

I agree with Colin. We know that most predictions over 20 years are usually completely wrong and this will be the case. There is no way Niger can have 200 millions people.

Randy McDonald said...

I'm inclined to agree. I take the predictions as indicative of trends.