• Webcast of the report's highlights (Windows Media. Time: 16 min)
  • Webcast of the report's highlights (RealPlayer. Time: 16 min)

(January 2006) Public attention has begun to focus on the "demographic divide," the vast gulf in birth and death rates among the world's countries. On one side of this divide are mostly poor countries with relatively high birth rates and low life expectancies. On the other side are mostly wealthy countries with birth rates so low that population decline is all but guaranteed and where average life expectancy extends past age 75, creating rapidly aging populations.

But this gulf is not a simple divide that perpetuates the status quo among the have and have-not nations. Rather, it involves a set of demographic forces that will affect the economic, social, and political circumstances in these countries and, consequently, their place on the world stage. Demographic trends are just one of the factors determining the future of these countries, but these trends are a crucial factor.

Written by PRB Senior Demographer Carl Haub and PRB Editor Mary Kent, this Population Bulletin will look at the factors fueling the differential growth causing the demographic divide and also look at the countries in between the two extremes, which contain the majority of world population in 2005. The Bulletin will focus on growth and demographic trends from now until mid-century, when the effects of the "divide" will be even more visible—and when the demographic momentum for further growth or decline will be built into the age structure of individual countries. (BUL 60.4: December 2005).