Demography Charts – 2

9 December 2014

See also Demography Charts – 1

Below are lists of largest country populations in 1950, 2015 and 2050, assuming the UN’s medium-variant projections. Key takeaways:

  • Lower growth for world population in upcoming decades as total fertility ratios (TFR = children per woman) decline in Africa and Asia.
  • Four European countries were in the top 10 in 1950. Only one (Russia) remains in 2015 and none in 2050.
  • US population drops from 6.3% of world in 1950, to 4.4% in 2015, to 4.2% in 2050.
  • Huge increase in Sub-Saharan Africa from 2015 to 2050, despite an expected decline in TFR.

Top 10 populations in 1950:

Population (millions) 1950
WORLD 2526
Sub-Saharan Africa 179
China 544
India 376
United States 158
Russia 103
Japan 82
Indonesia 73
Germany 70
Brazil 54
United Kingdom 51
Italy 46


Top 10 populations in 2015:

Population (millions) 2015
WORLD 7325
Sub-Saharan Africa 949
China 1401
India 1282
United States 325
Indonesia 256
Brazil 204
Pakistan 188
Nigeria 184
Bangladesh 160
Russia 142
Japan 127


Top 10 populations in 2050:

Population (millions) 2050
WORLD 9551
Sub-Saharan Africa 2074
India 1620
China 1385
Nigeria 440
United States 401
Indonesia 321
Pakistan 271
Brazil 231
Bangladesh 202
Ethiopia 186
Philippines 157

Finally, here is a chart of Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa as percent of total world population.




Demography Charts – 1

13 November 2014

Below are charts of country and regional dependency ratios.

First some definitions:

The total dependency ratio is the ratio of the population aged 0-14 and 65+ to the population aged 15-64. They are presented as number of dependents per 100 persons of working age (15-64).

The child dependency ratio is the ratio of the population aged 0-14 to the population aged 15-64. They are presented as number of dependents per 100 persons of working age (15-64).

The old-age dependency ratio is the ratio of the population aged 65 years or over to the population aged 15-64. They are presented as number of dependents per 100 persons of working age (15-64).

The charts below are derived from the United Nations’ World Population Prospects – The 2012 Revision

In theory, the economy does better when the dependency ratio is falling and less well when it is rising. But, as discussed in this previous post, two important mitigating factors are a country’s rate of innovation and its institutional strength.

United States, Europe, Japan

Figure 1 shows the total dependency ratios of Europe, Japan and the US from 1950 to 2050.

Total Dependency Ratio
Fig. 1. Total Dependency Ratio, Europe, Japan, USA

Key takeaways are:

  • The ratio bottomed in Japan two decades before it bottomed in Europe and the US, which may explain Japan’s stagnation relative to the US and Europe in the 1990-2008 period.
  • In the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, Europe and the US benefited from a declining ratio.
  • All three ratios will rise from now into the foreseeable future. But Japan’s ratio will rise faster due to its older population.

BRIC countries

Figure 2 shows the total dependency ratios of the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Fig. 2. Total Dependency Ratio
Fig. 2. Total Dependency Ratio, BRIC countries

Key takeaways are:

  • The ratios of Russia and China are both bottoming in the middle of the present decade and will rise for the foreseeable future.
  • Brazil’s ratio will bottom later this decade and will subsequently rise.
  • India’s ratio will continue to fall until about 2030 and will level off until 2050, which may help its economy grow faster.

Country Charts

Following are charts for a few individual countries and for Europe and Africa, showing all three dependency ratios as defined above. The blue line is the total ratio, the red is the child ratio and the green is the old-age ratio.

DR United States
Fig. 3. Dependency Ratios, USA

In the case of the US, Europe, Japan and China, it is clear that the rise in the total dependency ratio is mainly driven by a rising old-age ratio. Japan has the fastest rising old-age ratio. None of these countries is expected to see a big rise in its child ratio.

DR Europe
Fig. 4. Dependency Ratios, Europe


DR Japan
Fig. 5. Dependency Ratios, Japan

Note the steep 40+ point decline in China’s total dependency and child dependency ratios between 1970-2010. It is due to the country’s one-child policy and it provided a big boost to the Chinese economy in recent decades.

DR China
Fig. 6. Dependency Ratios, China

The following chart compares the total dependency ratios of the US and China. China’s ratio fell faster and will also climb faster.

Fig. 7. Total Dependency Ratio, USA, China
Fig. 7. Total Dependency Ratio, USA, China

India and Sub-Saharan Africa have a more promising demographic profile. A declining total ratio could markedly improve their economies, if other obstacles can be overcome. In addition, unlike other regions, Sub-Saharan Africa will not have a rising old-age ratio for the foreseeable future.

DR India
Fig. 8. Dependency Ratios, India


DR SubSaharan
Fig. 9. Dependency Ratios, Sub-Saharan Africa


DR Russia
Fig. 10. Dependency Ratios, Russia


DR Brazil
Fig. 11. Dependency Ratios, Brazil



European GDP: What Went Wrong

First the two world wars, then a decline in the birth rate.

Newspapers these days are full of stories on World War I which started 100 years ago. They are also full of stories on today’s anemic European economy, as for example with Italy’s negative growth rate in the second quarter and France’s struggle to reach 1% GDP growth this year. At first blush, these two sets of stories are unrelated. But on closer look, it is apparent that the economy today is a distant echo of the war a century ago. And it all comes down to Europe’s demographics.

4 August 1914
4 August 1914 (via Wikipedia)

In my view, there are essentially three main catalysts of economic growth: innovation, demographics, and a favorable institutional framework. To illustrate this, imagine that a firm develops the best smartphone in the world but that there is only a potential market of 1 million buyers. Clearly, the wealth created by this innovation would be far smaller than if the potential market was 100 million buyers. Thus the importance of demographics.

Now imagine that there is a market of 1 billion people but that there is no innovation of any kind. In this case, wealth creation would be greatly stunted and, with few new assets being created, wealth would become essentially a game of trading existing resources. Thus the importance of innovation. Finally, imagine a country where institutions are weak, where contract law is weak, where access to capital is difficult, where the government is corrupt and political risk is high. Here again there would not be much innovation because there would not be much capital or much incentive to innovate. Thus the importance of a favorable institutional framework.

Too many deaths

So going back to Europe, we could say that it has some innovation and that it has a favorable institutional framework, though in both cases to a lesser extent than the United States. What Europe lacks most is a strong demographic driver. It is enlightening in this regard to look at the sizes of European populations in the year 1900 vs. today:

 Population (millions)  1900 2014 Growth CAGR  TFR 
France 38 66 74% 0.5%  1.98
Germany 56 81 45% 0.3%  1.42
Italy 32 61 91% 0.6%  1.48
Russia 85 146 72% 0.5%  1.53
Spain 20.7 46.6 125% 0.7%  1.50
United Kingdom 38 64 68% 0.5%  1.88
Brazil 17 203 1094% 2.2%  1.80
China 415 1370 230% 1.1%  1.66
Egypt 8 87 988% 2.1%  2.79
India* 271 1653 510% 1.6%  2.50
Indonesia 45.5 252 454% 1.5%  2.35
Japan 42 127 202% 1.0%  1.41
Mexico 12 120 900% 2.0%  2.20
Nigeria 16 179 1019% 2.1%  6.00
Philippines 8 100 1150% 2.2%  3.07
United States 76 318 318% 1.3%  1.97

* includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma.

Source: Various, United Nations. Data may include errors. Estimates vary due to shifting borders and uneven reporting.

Two important points stand out:

First, in 1900, European countries were not only the world’s economic and military powers. They were also among the most populous countries in the world. By contrast today, Russia is the only country in the top 10 most populous. Then Germany is 16th and France is 20th. More importantly, some of the new demographic powers, India, Nigeria, Egypt, Mexico, the Philippines and Indonesia, are growing at a healthy clip, as can be seen from their Total Fertility Ratios (TFR, see table) whereas European countries are growing very slowly at TFRs that will ensure stagnation or shrinkage in the sizes of their population. A ranking ten or twenty years from now may show no European countries in the top 20 most populous countries.

Second, comparing European population sizes in 2014 vs. 1900 reveals a very slow annual increase in the 114 year period. And this is where the effects of the two World Wars, of the Spanish Influenza and of communism can be seen. Populations have grown with a CAGR of less than 1% per year for the last 114 years.

The United States had fewer casualties in the two World Wars, more immigration and a strong post-war baby boom, resulting in a healthy 1.3% population CAGR and a near quadrupling of the population over the past 114 years. However, as I wrote previously, the US faces slower, sub 1% population growth in the next few decades.

Here is the tally of deaths for some countries in the two World Wars:

 Millions of deaths  WW1 % of pop WW2 % of pop
 France    1.7 4.3%   0.6 1.4%
 Germany    2.8 4.3%   8.0 10.0%
 Italy    1.2 3.3%   0.5 1.0%
 Soviet Union    3.1 1.8% 22.0 14.0%
 UnitedKingdom    1.0 2.0%   0.5 0.9%
 United States    0.1 0.1%   0.4 0.3%

 Source: Various. Estimates vary widely and may include errors.

Estimates of deaths from the Spanish Influenza of 1918-19 vary widely from 20 to 50 million people worldwide. And Stalin’s purges are estimated to have killed over 20 million. Tens of millions of people and a larger number of descendants would have been added to today’s European population had these events not occurred. I made the case last year that Europe’s economies and markets suffer from weak domestic demand and have for a long time been driven by events outside of Europe itself.

Too few births

In general, a large number of countries are facing a more challenging demographic period in the next fifty years compared to the last fifty. Since the 1970s, there had been a steady decline in the dependency ratios (the sum of people under 14 and over 65 divided by the number of people aged 15 to 64) of the US, Western Europe, China and others. This decline is explained by a lower birth rate and was accelerated by large numbers of women joining the work force in several countries. There were fewer dependents and more bread winners than in previous decades.

In future years, dependency ratios are expected to rise due to the aging of the population in most countries and a decline in the number of workers per dependent. In the United States for example, baby boomers are swelling the number of dependents who rely on younger generations to support them in retirement (whether through taxes or through buoyant economy and stock market). But because boomers had fewer children than their parents, the burden on these children will be that much greater than it was on the boomers themselves.

In effect, our demographics have pulled forward prosperity from future years. Had there been more children in the West in the 1970-2000 period, there would have been less overall prosperity during that time, but we would now look forward to stronger domestic demand and a stronger economy going forward.

Note in the table below that the dependency ratio of Japan bottomed around 1990 which is the year when its stock market reached its all-time high; and that the dependency ratios in Europe and the US bottomed a few years ago around the time when stock markets reached their 2007 highs. The fact that several stock indices are now at higher peaks than in 2007 can be largely credited to America’s faster pace of innovation and to near-zero interest rates. Case in point: Apple’s market value has more than tripled since 2007.


India will soon be the most populous country in the world but because its dependency ratio is still declining, its growth profile may improve in future years. The same is true of Subsaharan Africa where the fertility rate is still high but declining steadily thanks to improved health care for women and declining infant mortality. As such both India and Subsaharan Africa could see faster economic growth than elsewhere, provided the institutional framework can be improved towards less corruption and more efficiency.

Europe is in a bind in the sense that, even if it had the wherewithal to do so, it cannot now raise its birth rate without making its demographic situation worse in the near term (by raising its dependency ratio faster). For the foreseeable future, its economy will become even more dependent on exports towards the United States and emerging markets. The new frontier for European exports may well be in the old colonies of the Indian subcontinent and of Subsaharan Africa.

On ‘America’s Baby Bust’

Jonathan Last’s recent article in The Wall Street Journal sounds a powerful alarm alongside the release of his book What to Expect When No One’s Expecting, with the tagline America’s Coming Demographic Disaster.  ‘No One’ is an exaggeration since there were about 4 million births in the US last year, but the title is a playful reminder of Heidi Murkoff’s blockbuster book on pregnancy.  As to the phrase ‘Coming Demographic Disaster’, it could put Last, years from now, in the category of overly pessimistic forecasters alongside Paul Ehrlich, author in 1968 of The Population Bomb. Forecasting is a difficult task and extrapolating the known past and present into the future has often proven to be an inadequate approach.  There are usually new hitherto unknown factors which intervene down the road and which derail any linear or semilinear prediction.

However, none of this should diminish the fact that Last’s article is an excellent must-read for anyone who still believes that US demographics are strong and supportive of future economic growth.  As I wrote a few months ago, there are many, including many in leadership positions, who still live with this illusion. Last’s main point is absolutely correct.  The birth rate (and fertility rate) has declined since the 1970s and the growth rate of the US population has been on a downward trend.  This phenomenon yielded a large demographic dividend from about 1982 to 2005, but it is now leading to large negative consequences for the economy. I covered several of these points in previous articles on this site. Most critical in my view is the rise in the dependency ratio which is likely to last now for several decades.  US demographics provided steady tail winds to the US economy for decades and added a large demographic dividend when the birth rate fell and more women joined the work force, but we are now over that hill and are facing intensifying demographic head winds.

I differ with Last on his recommendation that we need more children now.  Children born now will not contribute to the economy for another twenty years and their numbers will only further exacerbate an already climbing dependency ratio.  We cannot rewrite the past but what we need now are more adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s, in other words more children born in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.  Yet, had we had these children back then, the economy would not have been as strong in the 1980s and 1990s because less capital would have been available for saving and investing.  In many ways, we front-loaded demand, saving, investment and prosperity in those two decades and now face some inverse complications.

All is not lost however. Instead of boosting the birth rate now, a four-point solution would include 1) raising the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare, 2) improving labor force participation, 3) continued innovation and 4) more exports.  The first two would slow, delay or neutralize the rise in the dependency ratio.  Innovation is the most important driver of the economy but innovation without a large demographic audience does not achieve its full wealth creating potential.  An iPhone introduced to a market of 3 billion people clearly will create more wealth than an iPhone introduced to a market of 30 million people. Because US demographics are getting weaker and US demand will be less strong than in the past, an obvious solution is to look for new sources of demand outside our borders.  For this reason, it is essential that the US cultivates new export markets, in particular in countries with attractive demographic profiles.  As I wrote in this article, these markets are chiefly India and the countries of SubSaharan Africa, notably Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda where the population is large and the fertility ratio is expected to decline, raising the possibility of a demographic dividend in coming decades.  This dividend is not guaranteed to happen. It is only a window of opportunity which opens and closes. And countries are able to capitalize on it only if they strengthen their institutions and improve their governance and transparency.

CNBC: Governments Organize Matchmaking as Asia’s Birth Rates Fall

Several Asian countries have come up with special programs and innovative ways of encouraging people to get married and have more kids.


For Singapore citizen Kelly Ang, 25, who married a year ago, having a baby is not a top priority. The public relations professional, who works 11 hours a day, said she has no time to raise a family.

“At the moment I think it is difficult if I were to hold my current job and have a child too,” Ang said. “The work-life balance is something that would be a deterrent.”

Ang is one of many young people across Asia whose decision to put off having children is worrying their governments. From Taiwan to Singapore, authorities are stepping in to organize speed dating and other matchmaking events in a desperate attempt to stem falling birth rates. READ MORE.

What’s Holding Back Affordable Housing in India?

The demand is huge but poor infrastructure, antiquated business models, government bureaucracy and lack of financing are all impediments.


When real estate developer Xrbia recently launched a 170-acre housing project in Hinjwadi, a suburb on the outskirts of Pune in Maharashtra, all the 3,400 apartment units were sold within a week. The biggest unit in this apartment complex was 550 square feet and the smallest was close to 250 square feet. The units were priced at Rs. 22 lakh (around US$40,000) and Rs. 9 lakh (US$ 16,000) respectively.

Pointing to the quick sale of these homes, Rajesh Krishnan, managing director and CEO of Brick Eagle, a Mumbai-based land banking firm that acquires land and promotes affordable housing in partnership with developers, says: “In a way, this shows the demand-supply gap [in the affordable housing segment in India]. People physically queue up under the sun to apply for allotment of these houses.” He considers affordable housing in India to be homes that cost less than US$40,000. READ MORE.

India: Three Million Girls are ‘Missing’


In an alarming trend, the decline in girl child numbers in India has been sharper than the male children in the decade 2001-11, leading to a skewed child sex ratio.

While the decade saw an overall drop in share of children to total population, nearly three million girls, one million more than boys, are “missing” in 2011 compared to 2001 and there are now 48 fewer girls per 1,000 boys than there were in 1981, according to a a government study.

“During 2001-2011, the share of children to total population has declined and the decline was sharper for female children than male children in the age group 0-6 years,” said the study “Children in India 2012-A Statistical Appraisal” conducted by the Central Statistical Organisation.

According to the report, female child population in the age group of 0-6 year was 78.83 million in 2001 which declined to 75.84 million in 2011.

The population of girl child was 15.88 per cent of the total female population of 496.5 million in 2001, which declined to 12.9 per cent of total number of 586.47 million women in 2011.  READ MORE.

India’s Aging Population Vulnerable to Infectious Diseases


As a large number of India’s population moves towards the 50 plus bracket, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Report 2012 shows that in the absence of proper healthcare infrastructure and adult vaccination programmes, the elderly population in the country are highly vulnerable to infectious diseases.

India’s population is undergoing a dramatic transition, the report says adding that the proportion of older people is expected to rise three- to four-fold in the next 40 years. India’s population of people aged 65 and over will be second only to China’s. Even conservative estimates predict that the number of people aged 60 and over will reach 323 million by 2050. By then, people in their fifties are expected to account for 30% of the population, while those in their sixties will make up 20%. READ MORE.

Ex-Apple Boss Tackles Poverty in India with Mobile Technology


In Juanga, India, a village of less than 3,000 inhabitants, the adults typically work as farmers on small plots of land earning less than $2 a day. They live in extended families in two or three roomed bamboo thatched mud huts, surviving on rice and dahl.

Unable to see the value of education, the parents typically take their children out of school before they turn 16 to earn money. Women frequently deny themselves trips to health clinics and they lack knowledge of basic preventative healthcare measures.

They also lack basics such as drinking water, electricity, food, healthcare and infrastructure, but cell phone towers are often ubiquitous.

One American non-profit organization is using this proliferation of phone masts to bring empowering mobile technology to these destitute villagers. READ MORE.


US Demographics not as Strong as Widely Believed

A recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Mr. Ben Wattenberg, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, takes an optimistic view on US demographics and on their likely impact on the economy.  The WSJ today published my response in which I repeat the argument I made in America Heading Towards Zero Population Growth? that the growth of the US population is in a multi-decade decline.

Text of my letter:

“Regarding Ben J. Wattenberg’s (“Immigrants and ‘Comparative Advantage’,” op-ed, Aug. 9): It is true that the U.S. is in better shape than Europe or Japan, but the rate of growth of the U.S. population has fallen below 1% per year and will decline further over the next four decades. Due to the passing of baby boomers in increasing numbers, the two decades starting in 2030 will see no population growth except for immigration.

Mr. Wattenberg’s figure of 400 million Americans in 2050 is too high and would be reached only if the birth rate, life expectancy or the number of immigrants rises significantly in coming decades. My own estimate is 375 million in 2050, which is 61 million more Americans than we have today. This may appear nominally attractive, but the population grew by 60 million, or 24%, in the 22 years since 1990. A 60 million increase by 2050 would be equivalent to growth of only 19% in 38 years.

Even Mr. Wattenberg’s optimistic scenario would be growth of 27% in 38 years, a rate which is well below that of recent decades, with predictable consequences for domestic consumer demand.”

End of letter.

Mr. Wattenberg is not alone in holding an optimistic view.  In fact, robust population growth is seen by many as one of the unique assets of the US economy.  Last month, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein argued that US economic prospects look promising in part due to demographics:

“The U.S. has a number of major competitive advantages that we sometimes overlook — especially given the focus of the 24-hour news cycle on sensational, and mostly deflating, events. First, the U.S. has favorable demographics — thanks to its relatively high birth rates and immigration. While the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — have generated extraordinary economic growth, the U.S. remains a magnet for many of the smartest, most ambitious people in the world. […] Immigration is one of the main reasons why the U.S. has grown faster than many other developed economies. The growth in the foreign-born population contributed roughly 30 percent to 40 percent of total U.S. population growth from 1980 to the mid-2000s. New immigrant workers provide a boost to economic growth. Just think about the effect new workers have on demand for housing, let alone creating new businesses.”

Because they are only partially accurate, some of these comments end up painting an overall picture which is too optimistic. First on the birth rate, it is higher than that of Japan or Europe, but it had been until recently near replacement level, equivalent to a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.1 children per woman.  But since the financial crisis  began in 2008, the TFR has fallen below 2.1, as recently reported by The Economist. The TFR may well recover to replacement level as the economy improves. That is better than sub-replacement but a TFR of 2.1 is not sufficient to turn demographics into a source of economic strength. In addition, discussing birth additions without mentioning death subtractions presents only half of a full picture.  As increasing numbers of baby boomers pass away in the next three decades, the population will grow at a slower rate than in recent decades.

Another factor to consider within the overall population numbers is the evolution of each age group.  The expected increase in the number of older people has been widely documented and discussed, in particular as it relates to the pressure it will place on government social programs. A subsidiary measure of this development is the rise of the dependency ratio, which is the number of dependents (children and retired people) per working adult. In the US the ratio had been declining for decades and it is now set to start rising. (See Our Growing Inactive Population).

Turning to immigration, it is true that the US could open its doors wider to more immigration and by doing so, reach any population level that it wishes. But few commentators or politicians are advocating this approach. If we continue with the current run rate of 1 million new (legal) immigrants per year, the growth rate of the US population will continue to decline. And that would be true even if we raised annual immigration to 1.5 million newcomers.

There is nothing wrong with being too optimistic on demographics except that it could prevent policymakers from considering other steps to promote economic growth. If there is a widespread belief (as seems to be the case) that population growth will be a strong driver of the economy, we may forego some other growth-boosting measures which are in fact necessary.

In my opinion, growth for the US economy in the next few decades has to come from two main engines, first the perennial innovation engine, and second the manufacturing and export engine. The US can become once again an export powerhouse, not just in agriculture and technology, but also in other manufactured products along the entire value-added chain. Whether this requires a dramatic devaluation of the US dollar remains to be seen. If such is the case, we would not be the only country racing for a depreciated currency. Europe certainly does not want to see a stronger Euro, and if the Euro breaks up, virtually all countries except for Germany, Finland (and possibly France) will end up with currencies which are relatively weaker than the Euro. Germany may end up with a new Deutsche Mark which like the Swiss Franc will be stronger than its exporters would like to see.

Repatriating as many manufacturing jobs as possible and searching for new markets overseas are likely to be two important elements of a future growth strategy. Based purely on demographic trends, India and Sub-Saharan Africa look especially promising because improving health care and declining fertility rates (the two go hand in hand) could possibly yield the same kind of very large demographic dividend which we have seen in China and other Asian countries in recent decades.