POPULATION REFERENCE BUREAU, INC.
1754 N STREET, N.W., WASHINGTON, D.C. 20036
FACTS BEHIND THE FOUR BILLION
Marked by news stories around the world, global population is estimated
to have reached four billion on March 28. Sources for this disturbing
estimate were calculations by the Population Reference Bureau, now detailed
with other equally disturbing demographic data for the world's 161 recog-
nized countries in the Bureau's just-published 1976 World Population Data
New evidence on popualtion totals and more rapid declines in birth rates
than previously projected have resulted in slight downward revisions of
some earlier Bureau estimates. Even so, the 14th edition of this annual
Data Sheet points out that the world's mid-1976 total of 4,019 million
people is projected to increase by 55 percent to 6,214 million by the
year 2000. The current world growth rate of 1.8 percent is expected to
decline somewhat over the next quarter century, but if it were to remain
unchanged, global population would be double its 1976 size by 2014--just
38 years hence.
At an estimated 2.8 percent, Latin America is growing fastest of the
world's major regions, closely followed by Africa at 2.6 percent. If
these rates are maintained, Latin America's 1976 population of 326 million
and Africa's 413 million will be twice as numerous just after the turn of
the century. Europe's growth rate of 0.6 percent is currently lowest; at
this rate its present population of 476 million would double only in 116
years. Though North America's present 239 million population is growing
only slightly more rapidly at 0.8 percent, doubling time at this rate
would be a considerably lesser 87 years.
These contrasts in regional growth result from stark differences in
birth and death rates. The present birth rate in Africa, 46 per 1,000
population, is over three times those of Europe and North America, and
its death rate of 20 per 1,000 is twice as high. Latin America's high
growth rate stems from a somewhat lower birth rate--37 per 1,000--and a
much lower death rate than that of Africa--just 9 per 1,000 population,
equivalent to that of the United States.
Among individual countries, Kuwait holds the current population growth
rate record of 5.9 percent. At the other extreme, East Germany and
Portugal are now actually losing population by about 0.3 percent a year.
Unlike regional growth rates, population growth in some countries is
strongly affected by migration. Kuwait's rate of natural increase, based
on the annual excess of births over deaths, is a somewhat lesser 3.7
percent. Migrants attracted by the country's oil riches make the dif-
ference. Deaths now exceed births in West Germany and Luxembourg, as in
East Germany, but in-migration keeps population growth somewhat over zero.
In the United States, record low birth and death rates of 15 and 9 per
1,000 population put the current rate of natural increase at just 0.6
percent. However, net legal immigration of well over 400,000 annually
inflates this to the current population growth rate of 0.8 percent. This
rate does not take into account illegal immigration which may now add up
to 1 million more each year to the U.S. population.
As of mid-July this year, the U.S. population of 215.3 million will
make up 5 percent of the world's more than 4 billion people--slightly down
from the 6 percent share of earlier years due to faster growth rates else-
where. According to Population Reference Bureau estimates, a staggering
837 million or 21 percent of world population is now to be found in the
People's Republic of China, 621 million (15 percent) in India, and 257
million (6 percent) in Soviet Russia. Thus, nearly half the world lives
in these four countries alone.
In general, the latest statistics presented in the 1976 World Popula-
tion Data Sheet reaffirm the growing demographic imbalance between rich
and poor nations that has become increasingly apparent in recent years.
Poor countries are characterized by high birth, death, population growth,
and infant mortality rates, low life expectancy, young populations, and
relatively low percentages of total population living in urban areas.
The reverse is generally true for the wealthier countries.
But there are a few surprises.
For instance, thanks to runaway oil profits, 1974 per capital income
was highest in the United Arab Emirates ($13,500) and Kuwait ($11,640),
although demographically these countries are little different from other
socalled developing countries. On the other hand, the United States--
now well on the way to zero population growth--lost its long-held first
place as the world's wealthiest nation in 1974, accoridng to World Bank
data reproduced in the 1976 Data Sheet. At $6,640, U.S. per capital
income ranked fifth behind Sweden's $6,720 and Switzerland's $6,650, as
well as those of the two Middle Eastern nations.
The United States has also lost rank in infant mortality rates (annual
deaths under 1 year of age per 1,000 live births). Despite a dramatic
drop in recent years, the U.S. rate of 16.7 in 1974 ranked 18th lowest,
edged up from 13th place in 1966 by still faster declines in other
advanced countries, and even in Spain and Singapore with their much
lower per capital incomes of $1,960 and $2,120 respectively. Most of
the developing world has far to go before catching up in this important
index of public health. The average is 152 in Africa, 121 in Asia, and
105 for the world as a whole. Sweden's infant mortality rate of 9.2 is
The 1976 Data Sheet also records Latin America's urbanized population
at 59 percent of total population, almost on a par with Europe's 64 per-
cent, despite an average per capital income ($940) barely one quarter that
of Europe ($3,680).
Statistics presented in the 1976 World Population Data Sheet are
derived by the Population Reference Bureau chiefly from estimates pre-
pared by the United Nations, the International Statistical Programs
Center of the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and the World Bank. Founded
in 1929, the Population Reference Bureau is a private, nonprofit educa-
tional organization, located in Washington, D.C.