World Population to Level Off at About 9 Billion, Says U.N.

Population growth is expected to slow dramatically over the coming decades, but the number of people on the planet is still likely to reach 8.9 billion by 2050, up from 6.3 billion today, according to a new U.N. report released yesterday. Granted, that’s not the sort of runaway growth experienced during the 20th century, when the world’s population nearly quadrupled, but that’s still 2.6 billion new people on what many feel is an already cramped planet. By 2300, the population level is expected to stabilize at 9 billion. That’s notably smaller than U.N. forecasts from just two years ago, when demographers predicted a population of 9.4 billion by 2050. The slowdown in growth will likely be driven by women bearing fewer children; fertility rates have dropped from about 6 children per woman in 1900 to about 2.7 children today, and they’re expected to fall further. On a darker note, the AIDS epidemic is also a factor in the slower population growth.