Population Boom: Charting How We Got to Nearly 8 Billion People
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Population Boom: Charting How We Got to Nearly 8 Billion People

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Today, the global population is estimated to sit at 7.91 billion people.

By the end of 2022 or within the first months of 2023, that number is expected to officially cross the 8 billion mark. Incredibly, each new billion people has come faster than the previous—it was roughly only a decade ago that we crossed the 7 billion threshold.

How did we get here, and what has global population growth looked like historically?

In this series of six charts from Our World in Data, we’ll break down how the global population got to its current point, as well as some big picture trends behind the data.

#1: Mapping the Population Over 5,000 Years

New York, São Paulo, and Jakarta were not always bustling metropolises. In fact, for long parts of the history of civilization, it was unusual to find humans congregating in many of the present-day city locations we now think of as population centers.

The human population has always moved around, seeking out new opportunity and freedoms.

5,000 years of population movement

As of 3,000 BC, humans could be mainly found in Central America, the Mediterranean, the Fertile Crescent, and parts of India, Japan, and China. It’s no coincidence that that agriculture was independently discovered in many of these same places during the Neolithic Revolution.

#2: The Hockey Stick Curve

For even more context, let’s zoom way out by using a timeline that goes back to when woolly mammoths still roamed the Earth:

Annual World Population since 10,000 BC

From this 10,000-foot view, it’s clear that human population growth started going exponential around the time of the Second Agricultural Revolution, which started in the 17th century in Britain. This is when new technologies and farming conventions took root, making it possible to grow the food supply at an unprecedented pace.

Soon these discoveries spread around the world, enabling population booms everywhere.

#3: The Time to Add 1 Billion

The data and projections in this chart are a few years old, but the concept remains the same:

Time to Add 1 Billion in Population

It took all of human history until 1803 to reach the first billion in population. The next billion took 124 years, and the next 33 years. More recent billions have come every dozen or so.

So why then, are future billion people additions projected to take longer and longer to achieve?

#4: The Growth Rate is Shrinking

Because of demographics and falling fertility rates, the growth rate of the global population has actually been on a downward trend for some time.

Falling Population Growth Rate

As this growth rate gets closer to zero, the population curve has become less exponential like we saw in the first graphs. Population growth is leveling out, and it may even go negative at some point in the future.

#5: The Regional Breakdown

Although the rate of population growth is expected to slow down, there are still parts of the world that are adding new people fast, as you can see on this interactive regional breakdown:

Since 1973, Asia has doubled its population from 2.3 billion to 4.6 billion people.

Comparatively, over the same time frame, Europe has gone from 670 million to 748 million, equal to just an 11% increase.

#6: The Present and Future of Population Growth

Population projections by groups like the United Nations see the global population peaking at around 10.9 billion people in 2100.

World Population 1700 to 2100

That said, there isn’t a consensus around this peak.

Organizations like the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) have a different perspective, and they have recently modeled that the global population will top out at 9.7 billion people by the year 2064.

As we climb to surpass the 8 billion mark in the coming months, it will be interesting to see what path humanity ends up following.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Misc

Mapped: Top Trending Searches of 2021 in Every U.S. State

From presidential elections, to cryptocurrencies and billionaires, here are the trending searches in every U.S. state in 2021.

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Map of trending searches in every U.S. state in 2021

The Trending Searches in 2021

Google’s data editor Simon Rogers once said, “You’re never as honest as you are with your search engine. You get a sense of what people genuinely care about and genuinely want to know.”

This look at trending searches for every U.S. state is a window into the topics people were truly curious about in 2021. From political tensions to meme stocks, and from Elon Musk to a devastating tornado, we saw a wide range of trending searches throughout the year.

In the above animated video, Reddit user u/V1Analytics pulls together the top trending search terms from Google’s 2021 Year in Search summary (for the period before mid-November 2021) and Google’s Daily Search Trends page (from mid-November to December 20th) to illustrate the daily trends for each state.

It’s fascinating to see what Americans were looking up this year.

Trending Searches Offer a Glimpse of American Psyche

In the year when COVID-19 vaccines became widely available, many Americans turned to the world’s most popular search engine to figure out how to come back to a life of normalcy.

In 2021, the search entries spoke to people’s interest in alternative assets like cryptocurrencies and NFTs, as well as persistent economic insecurity, evidenced by questions about when they would get their stimulus checks.

Entertainers and billionaires trended throughout the year, and so did topics of significant cultural impact at those moments in time.

Here is a look at the trending searches of 2021 and when they were searched most:

TopicTrending MonthsCategory
BidenJanuaryPolitical Figure
CapitolJanuaryMonuments
Mega MillionsJanuaryCulture
GMEJanuaryGaming
DogecoinJanuary, April, MayCryptocurrency
The WeekndFebruaryEntertainment
ValheimFebruaryGaming
Power OutageJune, July, AugustSociety
Stimulus CheckMarchSociety
Lil Nas XMarchEntertainment
DMXAprilEntertainment
Prince PhilipAprilFamous Personalities
Jake PaulApril, AugustContent Creator
AMC StockMay, June, AugustEntertainment
Jeff BezosJulyBusinessman
Simone BilesJulyAthlete
AfghanistanAugust, SeptemberCountry
Hurricane IdaAugustClimate Change
Gabby PetitoSeptemberCrime
Squid GameOctoberTV Shows
Alec BaldwinOctoberActor
Travis ScottNovemberEntertainment
Kyle RittenhouseNovemberCrime
AdeleNovemberEntertainment
TornadoDecemberClimate Change
Elon MuskDecemberBusinessman

Notable Trending Searches in 2021

Here’s a look at a few of the notable searches that trended across the U.S. in 2021:

President Biden and Capitol

Unsurprisingly, the year started with news of the presidential election and the U.S. Capitol riot, as President Biden was set to take office.

In six states, however, the top trending search was still related to the Mega Millions jackpot, even as individuals stormed the Capitol Building.

Valheim

One of the most sought-after games of the year, Valheim, came on the market in February, 2021. By August, it had garnered over 8 million users. The developing company’s new Hearth and Home patch has skyrocketed the game’s appeal even more.

Stimulus Check

In March, the U.S. government unveiled their plan to distribute the third stimulus check to Americans.

People started looking for more information about when they would be getting their checks and if there had been any changes in the amount they would receive.

Dogecoin

Created in 2013 as a parody of Bitcoin, Dogecoin saw record trading levels in May 2021. This was in part due to Elon Musk supporting the cryptocurrency.

The Dogecoin market capitalization surged to a peak of $88 billion, worth more than three-quarters of the companies in the S&P 500.

AMC Stock

After suffering significant losses due to the pandemic-related shuttering of theaters across the country, AMC Entertainment became a fan favorite of Reddit-based retail traders who drove the share price up beyond what most analysts considered reasonable.

AMC’s stock price rose by 95% in a couple of days, reaching a record high of $63 per share. This was the latest phase of the meme stock frenzy.

Afghanistan

President Biden decided to completely withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11th, 2021, ending the longest war the country has ever fought.

As an immediate consequence of the withdrawal, the Taliban militia took over the country and the government. The event, which was broadcast in near real-time, caused widespread panic among the citizens as some attempted to flee the country.

What’s in Store for 2022

It’s going to be everyone’s best guess as to what the trending searches for 2022 will be. Based on the events that dominated the news throughout the year, a few predictions could be made.

Experts predict that we will be moving to an endemic stage of the pandemic, which is bound to profoundly impact how we live in 2022.

New trends, movies, TV shows, and even newer gadgets will surely catch everyone’s attention next year. It will be fascinating to see what’s on the minds of people in the coming 12 months.

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Misc

The Most Commonly Spoken Language in Every U.S. State (Besides English and Spanish)

The U.S. is home to a plethora of languages. Here we map the most common language spoken in each state (aside from English and Spanish)

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Map of the most commonly spoken languages apart from English or Spanish in every U.S. State

The Most Common Spoken Household Languages

We typically operate under the assumption that most Americans speak either English or Spanish. Though this is true in the broadest sense, the U.S. is a culturally diverse country, home to a plethora of languages.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) annually asks more than 1 million Americans questions about their lives, families, and backgrounds. One question asks respondents what language they mainly speak in their homes.

Migration Policy has used this data (while excluding English and Spanish) to leave us with the next-most-frequently spoken languages at home in each state.

Non-English Languages in the U.S.

In 2019, approximately 78% (241 million) of all 308.8 million people ages five and older reported speaking only English at home regardless of their nativity. The remaining 22% (67.8 million) reported speaking a language other than English at home.

Based on this data, Mandarin and Cantonese were the most common non-English, non-Spanish languages spoken in the U.S., with more than 3.4 million speakers across the country.

Here is a list of the most common languages spoken at home in the U.S., outside of English:

LanguagePopulation EstimateShare of Foreign Language Speakers
Spanish41,757,00061.6%
Cantonese and Mandarin3,495,0005.2%
Tagalog1,764,0002.6%
Vietnamese1,571,0002.3%
Arabic1,260,0001.9%
French and Louisiana French1,172,0001.7%
Korean1,075,0001.6%
Russian941,0001.4%
Haitian Creole925,0001.4%
German895,0001.3%
Hindi893,0001.3%
Portuguese846,0001.2%
Afro-Asiatic Languages590,0000.9%
West African Languages589,0000.9%
Indo-European Languages576,0000.8%
West Germanic Languages560,0000.8%
Italian540,0000.8%

Tagalog is the second most commonly spoken language in American households (after English/Spanish) with 1.7 million speakers, even though it only reaches top spot in Nevada. Unsurprisingly, Louisiana and states bordering eastern Canada have a healthy number of French speakers.

Further analysis of these common languages reveals a fascinating story. Here’s a breakdown of the top 5 most commonly spoken second languages (excluding English and Spanish), and the states where they’re spoken.

1. Cantonese and Mandarin

Estimated number of speakers nationally: 3,495,000

Number of states where it’s the most common: 17

States that most commonly speak the language: California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Alabama, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

Chinese immigrants have been coming to America in large numbers since the mid-19th century, when the California Gold Rush compelled them to cross the Pacific Ocean. Today, there are over 5 million Chinese Americans across the country.

2. Tagalog

Estimated number of speakers nationally: 1,764,000

Number of states where it’s the most common: 1

States that most commonly speak the language: Nevada

Immigrants from the Philippines started coming to America in large numbers by the turn of the 19th century, but it wasn’t until 1965 that both skilled and educated workers came by the thousands. Today, there are over 4 million Filipino Americans.

3. Vietnamese

Estimated number of speakers nationally: 1,571,000

Number of states where it’s the most common: 5

States that most commonly speak the language: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi and Georgia.

South Vietnamese immigration to the U.S. began right after the Vietnam War ended in 1975, and more Vietnamese people have been arriving ever since. Today, over half of all Vietnamese-Americans live in either California or Texas.

4. Arabic

Estimated number of speakers nationally: 1,260,000

Number of states where it’s the most common: 2

States that most commonly speak the language: Michigan and Tennessee

Michigan alone has over 140,000 Arabic speakers. California has over 190,000 speakers. Pew Research Center noted that Arabic is the fastest-growing language in the U.S., with speakers growing by 29% from 2010 to 2014.

5. French

Estimated number of speakers nationally: 1,172,000

Number of states where it’s the most common: 4

States that most commonly speak the language: Louisiana, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

After the Louisiana Purchase, French evolved from its original form, creating Louisiana French which also borrows words from English, Spanish, Native American, and African languages. To this day, it’s still spoken by around 175,000 people in Louisiana and Texas.

The United States: A Multilingual Country

Although English, in all its diversity, is unquestionably the country’s dominant national language, the U.S. has always had a complex multilingual history. Long before European settlers colonized North and South America, thousands of indigenous languages thrived from coast to coast. Today, some Indigenous languages are making a comeback as many states acknowledge their importance in the history and culture of the country.

With each new wave of immigrants residing in the country from every part of the globe, the linguistic and cultural diversity of the United States is growing.

The U.S. has one of the largest Chinese populations outside China, a demographic shift that may increase in the coming years. Spanish is now the most popular second language of the country.

America is home to the largest population of English speakers in the world, but bilingualism has been on the rise in the country for decades – a trend that shows no signs of letting up.

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