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Genus. 2005 Jul-Dec; 61(3-4):111-140.At the end of 1951, in the first issue of the Population Bulletin, the United Nations published an article on the past and future growth of world population (United Nations, 1951). The article provided a "long-term view" of future population growth by projecting the population by groups of countries from 1950 to 1980. According to this first set of estimates and projections issued by the United Nations, the world population, which was estimated to be 2.4 billion in mid-1950, would increase by at least half a billion and at most 1.2 billion over the next 30 years, producing for 1980 a range of 3 billion to 3.6 billion people, with a "medium" value of 3.3 billion. A further scenario obtained by maintaining constant the vital rates estimated for the late 1940s produced a world population of 3.5 billion (table 1), The proceedings of the 1954 World Population Conference held in Rome included another set of population projections, updating the work published in 1951. The major difference between the two sets lies on an upward adjustment of the 1950 population of Asia that resulted in a world total closer to 2.5 billion and led to a larger population in 1980 (3.6 billion in the medium variant). Today, with the benefit of hindsight, we estimate that the world's population in 1950 was slightly over 2.5 billion and that it increased by 1.9 billion over the next 30 years, to reach 4.4 billion by 1980, a value higher than the highest projected at the time of the 1954 Conference. In reviewing past demographic trends, this paper will compare them with those expected by United Nations demographers in the 1950s and 1960s in order to understand better their assessment of how the demographic transition would proceed. (excerpt)
POPULATION BULLETIN OF THE UNITED NATIONS. 1986; (19-20):35-43.The periodic assessment of global population growth from the past to the future has been one of the UN's most important contributions to member states and many other users. Available data and applicable analysis and projection methods were very limited in 1947, when the 1st global population estimates and projections were attempted. The 1st contributions of the Commission were manuals for these functions. Throughout the 1950s, 4 regional reports on Central and South America; Southeast Asia; and Asia and the far East were published. UN studies during this period tended to group regions by their position on a continuum of the demographic transition. Rough but alarming projections of population growth appeared. Projection technics were refined and standardized in the 1960s, and the demand grew for more specialized technics, e.g. dealing with urban/rural populations; the labor force; and other elements. The availability of computer technology at the end of the decade multiplied the projection capabilities, and the total population projections for the future were larger than ever. The 1970s projections, based on the more accurate and widely covered baseline data which had become available in developing countries, were also aided by more powerful and innovative indirect estimation technics; better software, and computers with larger capacities. By 1982, only a few countries were left with a total lack of data. A revision of estimates and projections is now undertaken biennially, incorporating the latest available data, utilizing advanced analytical methods and computer technology. Methodological manuals have been produced as the by-product of the revisions. UN demographic estimates and projections could be further improved by injection of a probabilistic element and the inclusion of economic factors. Roles for the future include maintenance of regional and interregional comparability of assumptions.