Bioethics News

Birth control and alarmist demographics predictions

Could alarmist demographic predictions, explain hard birth control measures, especially in developing countries?

It is generally agreed that it is difficult to make demographic projections. The United Nations make projections of this type for the world as a whole and for countries in particular, that can reach up to the year 2100, based primarily on death and birth rates, and on migratory data. Some projections suggest that the population in developing countries will fall at world level by approximately one third in the year 2100. Globally however, the world population could grow by 125% in the next 70 years; it may even peak in 2050 and fall by 7% in the second half of this century. However, it is easy for these predictions to fail. In this respect, the United Kingdom Office for Budget Responsibility highlighted some errors in the demographic predictions made. Thus, reviewing the predictions made in the mid-1950s, it found that these underestimated population growth, while those made in 1985, which estimated that for 2001 the population would fall by 7%, as already mentioned, appear to have been more accurate.

But why are demographic predictions so uncertain? As we mentioned previously, the population varies essentially according to births, deaths and migration, and prediction of these parameters is not simple, particularly as regards migration. Neither is it easy to predict deaths. Thus, according to a projection made in 1975, the number of deaths in the United Kingdom was estimated to be 132,000 in 2011, when this figure was one quarter of the actual number. Based on the above, future demographic predictions are inevitably uncertain (BMJ 2014; 349: g5184).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.