All over the world, the total fertility rate (TFR) has been falling since the 1970s

The total fertility rate (TFR) — the number of live children the average woman bears in her lifetime  

In one country after another, it has dropped under the 2.1 threshold (the “replacement rate,” allowing for childhood deaths and sex imbalances), below which the population is bound to decline.   

This fertility slump is in many ways the most remarkable trend of our era. And it is not only Elon Musk who worries that “population collapse is potentially the greatest risk to the future of civilization.”

Our species is not done multiplying, to be sure.  

“More than half of the projected increase in the global population between 2022 and 2050 is expected to be concentrated in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC], Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.” 

When the human population begins to fall, it will do so not gradually, but almost as steeply as it once rose.

The problem is that this precipitous decline will come a century too late to avert the disastrous consequences of climate change that many today fear — and which are another reason why people will flee Africa, and another reason why young people in Europe say they will have few or no children.

Niall Ferguson 10 March 2024

By mid-century (2050) Nigeria is projected to be as populous as the US

By 2100 half the world’s children will be born in sub-Saharan Africa

Fertility rates are falling faster everywhere else

The continent’s population is thus set to double by 2050.

The Economist 16 April 2024


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