This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

When Deutsche Bank Talks About Fertility Rates, Should We Listen?

Earlier this month, Sanjeev Sanyal, Global Strategist for Deutsche Bank, came to the conclusion that the UN Population Division's population projections are way too high. He thinks fertility will be at replacement level in 15 years, and that world population size may peak at about 8.7 billion people and then decline from there. This is in contrast to the projections by demographers at the UN who this summer concluded that fertility was not declining as quickly as they had previously thought, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, and that the world was likely headed to a number perhaps as high as 11 billion before leveling off. Mr. Sanyal's contrary opinion was picked up in a variety of places, including yesterday's New York Times, in the Business section, by Floyd Norris:
But it is possible that the U.N.’s latest forecast is too pessimistic. An analysis of population trends by Sanjeev Sanyal, the global strategist for Deutsche Bank, concludes that population growth is likely to be much slower than the U.N.’s estimate.
“In our view, global fertility will fall to the replacement rate in less than 15 years,” Mr. Sanyal wrote. “Population may keep growing for a few more decades from rising longevity but, reproductively speaking, our species will no longer be expanding.” He forecasts that world population will peak in around 2055, at 8.7 billion, and decline to 8 billion by the end of the century.
Now, it is always important to keep in mind that projections are just that--possibilities about what the future might hold, not predictions. So, there is always the possibility that Sanyal will be right and the UN demographers will be wrong. But I wouldn't bet on it. Why not? The UN demographers are highly qualified experts with a long history of knowledge about how the world works demographically. Mr. Sanyal seems like a very smart person, based on his online biosketches, but there is no evidence of any background in demography on his part, nor on the part of Deutsche Bank, either, for that matter.

You might also contemplate how this projection squares with that of Peter Berezin of BCA Research who recently was predicting a baby boom in developing countries? Or, with the ideas of Erle Ellis, who recently argued that there is no such thing as overpopulation because we will always come up with alternative sources of resources? 

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