The great baby bust

Two-thirds of the world’s population now lives in countries where the total fertility rate (TFR) – a measure of births per woman per lifetime – has dropped below 2.1, the number needed to keep the population constant. 

This trend has surprised some demographers, many of whom have spent years worrying about an overcrowded planet. As recently as 2017, the UN was predicting that the world’s population – about eight billion today – would climb to 11.2 billion by 2100. It now predicts that it will peak at around 10.4 billion in 2080 and start declining; some demographers project that this will happen decades earlier. This would be the first such global-population decline since the Black Death in the Middle Ages. “The demographic winter is coming,” Jesús Fernández-Villaverde of the University of Pennsylvania told The Wall Street Journal.

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