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NEW YORK TIMES. 1996 Nov 17; 3.According to a UN survey covering 1990-1995, world population growth is 1.48%, significantly less than the 1.57% projected in the 1994 report. Fertility declined to an average of 2.96 children per woman; the projected figure was 3.1. The world's population could number 9.4 billion in 2050, nearly half a billion lower than the 1994 projection. World population now numbers 5.77 billion and will stabilize, sooner than expected, at 10.73 billion in 2200 (chart). Joseph Chamie, director of the UN Population Division, cites family planning programs of the 1960s and 1970s and recent programs improving women's status for creating a steady continuous fertility decline in every region. J. Brian Atwood, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), called the gains heartening at a time when population and development assistance programs are being cut. International family planning program critic, Representative Christopher H. Smith (Republican, NJ), is concerned abortions will be funded. He believes that money would be better spent on improving children's lives and strengthening market economies to create better living standards and smaller families, and that Western family planning programs are culturally intrusive. Mr. Chamie responds that population declines are much slower if couples lack access to safe, culturally and religiously acceptable contraception. As seen in Bangladesh, Syria, and Turkey, where birth rates declined before living standards rose, socioeconomic growth is unnecessary to bring down fertility. Childbearing and marriage are being delayed, and people are being given the chance to choose better lives.