How the U.N. calculates the world population (and why it matters)
Have you ever wondered how scientists manage to keep track of the 7.5 billion people on earth? It’s hard to imagine accounting for every person on the planet, especially those who are isolated from modern society. However, despite the complexities of counting everyone on earth, the intricate planning that goes into each census ensures we get a somewhat accurate idea of the world population. Even though censuses may not account for the entirety of human beings in the world, having a general awareness for the world population carries far more weight than most people realize.
Forming an accurate worldwide census
So, who is in charge of keeping track of the world population? That job falls on the shoulders of the United Nations Population Division (UNPD). In order to come up with an accurate estimate of how many people there are on earth, they have to assess tons of data regarding population. The UNPD draws on everything from individual country censuses to birth and death records, updating their research every five years to track population growth and decline in each area. They also consider demographics such as age (including mortality rates in all age brackets) and fertility/birth rates in each country. In the United States, a census is performed every 10 years, during which every individual in the U.S. is counted via interviews, questionnaires, or other methods. When it comes to the U.S. census, there are no estimates. However, not every country has the luxury of performing such thorough censuses.
Complications with counting the population
Each country worldwide only has limited means of estimating the number of people in its population. Additionally, not everyone in the world is necessarily accounted for by a census. Most bigger countries censuses, such as China, are overshot by millions of people. Smaller, more isolated countries, towns, or villages may not even perform a census at all. No matter how in-depth a country’s census may be, there is almost always a margin of error in which the number of citizens is overestimated or underestimated. Considering factors like migration, war, and the presence of isolated tribes, accurately measuring a population becomes even more complicated and tedious. In war-torn areas like Syria or AIDS-riddled places like sub-Saharan Africa, the frequent occurrence of casualties makes it nearly impossible to accurately produce a census. Additionally, places with high infant-mortality make accounting for successful births a struggle. Considering that a baby is born every four seconds across the globe, trying to account for the birth of every child is arguably impossible. While the UNPD may get close to an accurate estimate of the world population, it’s still likely off by millions of people.
Why knowing the world population matters
So, why is it so necessary to have an accurate measure of the worldwide population? Knowing the number of humans on earth has a greater impact on your future than you might think. An awareness of the world population is essential for addressing potential issues that come with population growth. Accurate figures are necessary to understand how to distribute resources and address problems with the economy regarding the increasing population in the years to come. Effects of a growing population include an increased need for resources such as food and water, greater production of pollution/human waste, a rise in prices of resources (affecting the gap between economic classes), and gradual increase in unemployment. In order to prepare for a future which supports the wellbeing of everyone, not just the upper class, understanding how the population will fluctuate in future years is necessary. Attaining an awareness of the world population growth in the next decade is essential for planning out how to utilize resources, keeping the world economy stable, and preventing citizens across the globe from falling into severe poverty.