Education Leads to Lower Fertility and Increased Prosperity
By Brigid Fitzgerald Reading
Earth Policy Release
May 12, 2011
As the world continues to add close to 80 million people each year, high population growth is running up against the limits of our finite planet, threatening global economic and political stability. To stay within the bounds of the earth’s natural resources, the world’s population will have to stabilize.
The United Nations’ recently revised “medium” projection shows world population exceeding 9 billion by 2045. In the “high” projection, which assumes high levels of fertility, world population would top 10 billion by the same year. But spreading hunger and poverty, along with the conflict and disease that come with them, could forcibly curtail growth before we reach 9 billion. Alternatively, the “low” projection suggests it is possible for world population to peak at just over 8 billion around 2045 if we voluntarily make rapid reductions in family size.
Fertility rates tend to be highest in the world’s least developed countries. When mortality rates decline quickly but fertility rates fail to follow, countries can find it harder to reduce poverty. Poverty, in turn, increases the likelihood of having many children, trapping families and countries in a vicious cycle. Conversely, countries that quickly slow population growth can receive a “demographic bonus”: the economic and social rewards that come from a smaller number of young dependents relative to the number of working adults.