Let us compare three groups: One, people living in high-income, developed nations; two, people living in low- and middle-income, developing nations; and three, the world’s population as a whole. Which population is growing fastest?
The fastest growing population is those living in high-income, developed nations. I suspect most would guess they are the slowest-growing population, and in a sense they are right.
If we were to look at the excess of births over deaths, the developed world has the lowest growth rate, less than one-sixth of the world’s population growth rate.
But the developed world also gains because of the numbers of people immigrating in over those emigrating out. This brings the developed world up to about half the world average, but still leaves the population of the developed world with the lowest growth rate.
But a third factor is economic growth in countries that are reclassified from the developing to the developed category. For example, since 2004 most of the first layer of the old Soviet bloc has achieved developed status: Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia. Chile should make it this year.
A number of oil-rich countries also have made it, but they can go back and forth for decades depending on the price of oil. The countries I have mentioned have more broad-based economies; their success is likely to be permanent.
The countries that have been making it into the developed world recently have relatively small populations. In the next 15 years we are likely to see China, Brazil, Russia, Mexico and Turkey added to the developed world, in addition to many smaller nations. The population of the developed world will soar.
Given present trends, it seems likely that the children being born today in the poorest countries on Earth will die in developed nations.