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Popul Today. 1997 Apr;25(4):1-3.

New UN projections depict a variety of demographic futures.



The UN Population Division current projection of a world population between 7.7 and 11.2 billion by 2050 is lower than the 1994 projection of 7.9-11.9 billion. This new projection is based on reduced total fertility rates in many regions. It is particularly difficult to make population projections in developing countries because demographers must base these projections on assumptions about birth and death rates. The UN, therefore, provides four projections based on various assumptions: high, medium, low, and constant fertility variants. The medium projection is usually labeled "most likely" to occur and assumes that fertility will converge at 2.1 children/woman by 2050. The low projection assumes that total fertility rate will decline to 1.6, and the high one uses a rate of 2.6. Constant fertility assumes that the 1990-95 fertility level of 3.0 will prevail and will produce a population of 15 billion by 2050. Projections for Africa indicate slightly slower growth because of the onset of fertility decline and the impact of AIDS, which has reduced life expectancy by about 6 years. Asia had a lower overall birth rate than was assumed for the period 1990-95 due to a reduction in the crude birth rate of India for the period. The projection for Latin America was slightly lower because of a decrease in Brazil's total fertility rate. Europe's projected population decline in the medium figures reflects the "free-fall" in fertility seen in the former Soviet republics and the newly independent states. These new UN projections show that it is possible to achieve reductions in population growth in developing countries. The assumptions behind these figures should be examined carefully, however, before they are used.

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