Q&A From PRB's Webinar on the 2011 World Population Data Sheet

(October 2011) Carl Haub answered additional questions submitted during the July 28, 2011, webinar on the 2011 World Population Data Sheet.

Kristy McGuire: I teach AP Human Geography. The most widely used textbook in the country says that no countries are in stage one of the DTM anymore. All are at least in stage two—leading to rapid growth. Stage one is defined as high BR and DR with, therefore, little overall growth in the NIR. Also, some texts show a stage 5. This is how I teach it. Stage 5 are those countries who have consistently falling NIRs, whereby the DR exceeds the BR. Japan would be an example.
Carl Haub: We wouldn't advise any change to the way you teach it, either. We were describing the transition in terms of the contemporary situation, thinking that HIV is a modern form of first-stage mortality, death rates rising at first, then subsiding somewhat. And, many do describe that fifth stage of chronically very low fertility, including us!

Deborah Perez: Is there detailed data that demonstrates the impact of the economic environment and its impact on global pop. growth, and a comparative analysis across developed countries and across developing countries?
Carl Haub: There are a large number of such studies, of course. Generally, an expanding economy and a reduced population growth rate do go hand-in-hand in developing countries. One place for information is PRB's Population & Economic Development Linkages 2007 Data Sheet. PRB is preparing an updated edition. In developed countries, the global recession has caused some birth rate decline.

Susan Cohen: Can you please comment on what the implications are for world population projections of being able to one day meet the unmet need/demand for modern contraception?
Carl Haub: Meeting unmet need would certainly have the effect of lowering birth rates but we also have to remember that projections tacitly assume that will happen so that the effect on projections themselves may not be very great. If unmet need is not met, that will definitely have an effect on raising projections.

Bjoern Schwentker: Is there any evidence how the very low fertility below the replacement level of two children per woman can be raised above that level again?
Carl Haub: The only obvious evidence is from Russia, where the government offers the equivalent of US$9,000 for a second or higher-order birth, a large sum. The total fertility rate rose to 1.5 children per woman by 2010 from 1.3 in 2006, the year that program began. That increase appears to have stopped in 2011, however. In other countries, such as those in northern Europe and France, the availability of daycare and more-accommodating policies on maternity and paternity leave have kept birth rates comparatively high at two children per woman, or nearly so.

Robert Medina: What have been the effects of immigration in Europe?
Carl Haub: The effects have been primarily to increase the proportion of foreign-born and subsequent generation "non-native" population, a relatively new phenomenon. Many immigrants were needed to supplant numbers in the labor force, a result of very low birth rates. But it's no secret that this is causing increased tensions, particularly after the 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States.

Jin In: What's the most disturbing trend you see and/or predict?
Carl Haub: To pick just one, the fact that population growth is now largely concentrated in the world's poorest countries and, within countries, in the poorest areas. This is especially true for sub-Saharan Africa. And even in India, a country often heralded as a rising economic power, 75 percent of the population lives below US$2 per day: 900 million people.

Marcela Riveros: What are the demographic implications of adolescent pregnancy in particular the least developed countries?
Carl Haub: Besides putting upward pressure on the birth rate, it's also a symptom of a lack of status of women in a society, particularly when it comes to education.

Kazuyo Machiyama: What would you think are the main reasons for slower fertility decline in sub-Saharan Africa? And what would you think we could do to accelerate the pace of the fertility decline?
Carl Haub: To begin with, the desire for large families remains high, as reported in surveys. Family planning is often used to space births rather than limit the number of children. But, beyond that, there is often a lack of commitment on the part of governments to reduce fertility, in contrast to many countries of Asia and Latin America.

Rahul Pandey: What is the timeline one is looking at for stabilization of population in India?
Carl Haub: If fertility actually declines to the two-child family in the large Hindi Belt states, such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, it would stabilize at 1.7 billion by mid-century. But according to the UN medium variant projections, fertility would actually have to continue declining until women averaged 1.8 children nationwide by 2050. There are, of course, varying opinions on how likely that is.

Priya Emmart: Population for DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] based on constant fertility for 2050?
Carl Haub: It would be 244 million in 2050 with a continually rising growth rate 3.6 percent (a population "doubling time" of 19 years).

Rahat Bari Tooheen: Is there any way to stop the total number of births, despite decreasing birth rates?
Carl Haub: If you mean reduce the number of births, the birth rate would have to decline faster than it is now. The United Nations projections show births staying at about 130 million annually even with a more modest rate of decline.

Reynard Loki: In a 1999 Cornell University study, lead author David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture, said that without "democratically determined population-control practices and sound resource-management policies...12 billion miserable humans will suffer a difficult life on Earth by the year 2100." Is this a fair assessment and is the solution found within population control and resource-management policies?
Carl Haub: If birth rates in all countries remained exactly where they are today, world population would reach 27 billion in 2100 and grow at 2.4 percent per year, according to UN projections. That is certainly unlikely, however. The UN medium variant assumes gradual fertility decline and projects a population of 10.1 billion by 2100. That should help put the issue into perspective.

Carina Stover: How reliable are the numbers coming out of China now? And what might the change in current policy have on overall growth in the country?
Carl Haub: China's numbers are probably reliable; at least, they are treated as such. But the total fertility rate reported is too high at 1.8. Analysts put it at about 1.5. If China does relax their policy, and it has been informally reported that they will, some increase in fertility is likely. But a dramatic "baby boom" may be unlikely as the country has become more urbanized. Son preference will still be strong. One could expect the abortion of female fetuses to decrease, but not go away. China is already experimenting with a more relaxed policy in some areas, such as Shanghai.

Juan Carlos Guillen: Today, what is Bolivia's population? People are living in poorness and extreme poorness in Bolivia.
Carl Haub: Bolivia's population is 10.1 million in 2011 and growing at about 1.6 percent per year. That is a good bit higher than most other countries on the continent. It is projected to be 16.8 million in 2050 if the fertility rate declines from the current 3.3 children on average per woman. And, you are right about poverty. The population estimated to be living on less than US$2 per day is 25 percent, about twice the South American average.

Dennis Dimick: Based on your research, is there a day or week this year we expect total population to actually pass 7 billion?
Carl Haub: The exact date picked by the UN to reach 7 billion is Oct. 31, 2011 of this year. No one, of course, knows it to such a degree of accuracy and there are other estimates.

Peter Sawyer: Does emigration correlate positively with rapid population growth? How has the global emigration rate changed over time?
Carl Haub: I would say: not very well, even as much as one would expect rapid growth to be a "push" factor. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has the fastest population growth but not the highest emigration rate, looking at world regions and sub-regions. Emigration has several aspects: migration to seek employment and a better life (and to send money back home), and refugee migration. The former requires some level of education, the funds to pay for emigration, and a realistic expectation of employment in the new country.
Looking at South Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and developing countries, overall emigration has increased as the population growth rate has slowed. Emigration from SSA has increased as well, partly due to refugee movements and could be expected to increase further. An important component in all emigration is the establishment of population centers in the country of destination from which information can be sent home. Often, migration is dependent upon visa issuance, particularly for long-distance migrants and that, in turn, depends upon the ability of the migrant to have financial support and a guaranteed job.

Mike Sage: How many people can the world sustain?
Carl Haub: That is very difficult to answer. For one, it would depend on the average level of living. Joel Cohen of Rockefeller University wrote a wonderful book several years back in which he collected a large number of estimates. He did not pick a number but, if memory serves, the estimates averaged 10 billion. Here are two links to inform you further but you might want to obtain a copy of the book. His treatment is thorough, to say the least!

Richard Cincotta: In its "Urban Prospects" data series, the UN Population Division projects that virtually all of the future increments of population growth will be added to urban populations. Urban populations typically have lower fertility than rural areas in the same country. Yet, there is little suggestion in the "Population Prospects" methodologies that this aspect of change is figured into the current projections. Do you think urbanization will produce more rapid fertility declines in the future, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa?
Carl Haub: Rich, a quick answer: No, the UN does not project for urban-rural, at least I have never seen an indication that they do. Urbanization should certainly play a role in fertility reduction but we also have to remember that "urbanization" often includes very small places as well. Still, virtually all surveys show lower fertility in urban areas, partly due to higher levels of education and socioeconomic status.

Francis Ssebiryo: What is missing in SSA countries to improve their population indicators? We have seen some improvements in Literacy, poverty indicators, etc! Is it the population momentum? It is striking to know that Uganda for example is still struggling in [phase 1 of] the demographic transition.
Carl Haub: Most observers of trends in SSA would point to a lack of government commitment as well as shortage of funds. Countries such as Ghana, Kenya, and (in the past) Zimbabwe had held that commitment, and it shows in reduced fertility.

Jo Lynne Whiting: For the developing countries that have reduced the fertility rate to replacement level, what measures did they use to achieve this result?
Carl Haub: Those measures vary pretty widely. Indonesia had many innovative programs such as the provision of sewing machines to women who were contracepting. I saw a very interesting video on that many years ago. In Thailand, a well-administered program to deliver family planning supplies and services had a large effect. But it all seems to go back to serious government commitment, as I mentioned in another response here—and the funds to carry it out. It also goes hand-in-hand with overall economic growth and higher levels of education.

Carl Haub is a senior demographer at PRB.