The world is in the midst of a notable period of demographic transition.
Back in the 1960s, global population growth peaked at a 2.1% annual rate, but since then it has been on a historic downtrend.
In fact, according to the most commonly cited United Nations projection, which is based on a medium fertility rate scenario, it’s expected that annual population growth could drop all the way to 0.1% by the end of the 21st century.
Visualizing a Demographic Transition
Today’s powerful charts come from Our World in Data by economist Max Roser, and they show how global demographics will shift over the next 80 years.
Below you can see one major catalyst of this change, which is the peaking (and then falling) population growth rate:
Why has population growth been dropping since the 1960s?
A variety of explanations factor into this, including:
- Falling fertility rates:
Birth rates tend to fall as nations get richer. First, this happened in the developed world, but as the century progresses this phenomenon will impact more and more developing nations.
- Government policy:
China’s “One Child Policy” in particular had an effect on global population growth, and the aftermath of the policy is still contributing to a shrinking Chinese population over the long term.
- Rural flight
Urban dwellers tend to have fewer babies – and by 2050, there will be an additional 2.5 billion people living in cities globally.
Fewer births combined with improving healthcare – especially in developing nations – will dramatically alter the composition of the world population pyramid, creating both economic opportunities and challenges in the process.
The Changing World Population Pyramid
The following graphic charts how these changes affect the makeup of the world’s population.
Over time, the shape of the world population pyramid is expected to shift from Stage 1 (high birth rates, high death rates) to something closer to Stage 4 (low birth rates, low death rates).
As the population distribution skews older, here is how population size and global median age will change:
|Year||Global Population Size||Median Age|
|1950||2.6 billion||23.6 years|
|2018||7.6 billion||30.0 years|
|2050||9.7 billion||36.1 years|
|2075||10.7 billion||39.0 years|
|2100||11.2 billion||41.6 years|
Dates past 2018 are projections by the United Nations
Global median age is projected to surpass 40 years by the end of the century, and it will be considerably higher in many Western nations, especially in Japan and Europe.
With the future demographic composition looking very different than today, it will be fascinating to see how the economy responds to these potential tailwinds. Further, it will be even more interesting to see what role automation will play as the old-age dependency ratio hits historic highs.
Mapped: The World Divided Into 4 Regions With Equal Populations
This simple map visualization will change how you think about global population, and how people are distributed throughout the planet.
World Map: Divided Into 4 Regions With Equal Populations
View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here
At the most basic level, a standard world map tells us almost nothing about human population.
While the borders on a map may give us an idea of political boundaries or even aspects of continental geography, in reality they have little to do with showing population density.
That said, it is possible to apply one simple alteration to the world map so that we can make it more interesting from a population perspective – and it turns out that doing so can help us gain insight on where regional population density is the greatest.
Splitting Up the Map
Today’s map comes from Reddit user /u/OrneryThroat and it breaks up the world by grouping countries into four equally populated regions.
While both simple and crude, this mechanism does have some profound results:
|North America, South America, and West/Central Africa||1.9 billion|
|Europe, East Africa, Middle East, and Northern Asia||1.9 billion|
|South Asia||1.9 billion|
|Most of Southeast Asia, China, and Oceania||1.9 billion|
More specifically, there is one area that stands out from a visual standpoint, and it resides clearly in the southern portion of Asia.
Home to 1.34 billion people, it’s well-known that India already holds roughly 20% of the global population – but add Pakistan (195 million) and Bangladesh (165 million) into the mix, and you’re already closing in on one quarter of the global total.
Meanwhile, to get to a similar number, you’d need to add the entire populations of North America, South America, Europe, and Oceania together to even come close.
Shown Another Way
While splitting it into four equal portions is one way to transform the world map, here is another geometric route to conveying a similar idea about the world’s population density:
On a previous Chart of the Week, we showed that 22 of the world’s 37 megacities are located in the small circle above, putting into perspective the region’s population density in a similar but different way.
These simple transformations of the world map are not only memorable, but they also give our brain an easy heuristic to better understand the planet we live on.
Assembling the World Country-by-Country, Based on Economy Size
How does the world map change if it gets assembled based on the size of economies, in ascending order of GDP or GDP per capita?
If you had to sketch a world map, you’d probably start with a place that is familiar.
Perhaps you would begin by drawing your own continent, or maybe you’d focus on the specific borders of the country you live in. Then, you’d likely move to drawing the outlines of neighboring countries, eventually working your way to far and distant lands.
This would be a logical way for anyone to think about such a task, and it gives some insight as to how humans think about the world.
We start with what’s familiar, and build it out until it’s a complete picture.
Assembling the World by Economy Size
What if we assembled a world map in a completely different order?
Today’s two animations come to us from Engaging-Data, and they approach the world map from an alternate angle: assembling countries on the map in the order of their economic footprints.
The first map, shown below, uses nominal GDP to assemble countries in ascending order:
This version of the map shows the smallest economies first, with the larger economies at the end.
For this reason, the first economies appearing on the map tend to be developing nations, or nations with smaller geographical or demographic footprints.
For example, even though the Falkland Islands are wealthy on a per capita basis, the British Overseas Territory has fewer than 4,000 people, which gives it a minor footprint on a global stage.
GDP per Capita (Nominal)
Now, let’s take a look at the same map, constructed in order of GDP per capita:
This animation is more cohesive, given that it is not dependent on population size. Instead the order here is based on economic output (in nominal terms) of the average person in each country or jurisdiction.
In this case, developing nations appear first – and at the end, more developed regions (like Europe and North America) tend to fill out.
Note: All rankings here are in nominal terms, which use market rates to calculate comparable values in U.S. dollars, while omitting the cost of living as a factor. GDP rankings change significantly when using PPP rates.
Other Ways to Assemble the World
While assembling nations based on GDP provides an interesting way to look at the world, this same approach can be tried by applying other statistics as well.
We recommend checking out this page, which allows you to “assemble the world” based on measures like population density, life expectancy, or population.
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