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 12th (it came out in 2015), 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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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Has India Already Overtaken China in Population Size?

China has been more populous than India for centuries, but every population projection shows that India will soon overtake it and claim the trophy for the world's biggest population. This is due almost entirely to China's below-level fertility compared to India's above replacement level fertility. Now a Chinese demographer based at the University of Wisconsin, Yi Fuxiang, has suggested that India may already has surpassed China in population size. The NYTimes reports on this:
China’s real population may be 1.29 billion people, 90 million fewer than the government’s estimate of 1.38 billion in 2016, Mr. Yi told a meeting at Peking University on Monday, citing what he said were telltale inconsistencies among birthrate, hospital and school statistics. India’s population, on the other hand, had grown to 1.33 billion in 2016, according to the United Nations.
Mr. Yi’s claims met skepticism from demographers, who said he had misread or exaggerated statistical discrepancies. But Mr. Yi said he was not just splitting statistical hairs. China’s birthrate will determine the size of the work force sustaining its economy, and the data indicated that stagnation could occur in coming decades, he said.
Since the rest of us haven't yet seen Xi's analysis in published form, it is impossible to judge whether or not China's population size is really less than we might think. At the same time, we can ask whether this matters very much. After all, no one thinks that China will have the most people for very much longer. The projections made by demographers at the Wittgenstein Centre in Vienna suggest that India will have surpassed China by 2020--which is only three years from now. Demographers at the United Nations Population Division project that India will have overtaken China by 2025. That is still only a few years from now. It's going to happen soon, folks, even if we aren't quite there yet.

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