Population Reference Bureau Releases 2008 World Population Data SheetAugust 20, 2008 By Sonia SchmanskiThe Population Reference Bureau (PRB) officially launched its 2008 World Population Data Sheet yesterday at the National Press Club. The 2008 Data Sheet features key population, health, environmental, and economic indicators for more than 200 countries. New in this year’s edition, co-authored by Carl Haub and Mary Mederios Kent, are data on percent of population in urban areas, number of vehicles per 100,000 people, and percent of population with access to improved drinking water.
Several findings highlight the significant health inequalities between wealthy and poor countries. For example, while around 1 in 6,000 women in developed countries dies from pregnancy-related causes, in the 50 least-developed countries, the risk is an astonishing 1 in 22. Because maternal mortality is generally seen as a proxy for the general state of a country’s health care system, these statistics point to alarming systemic health care failings in many of the world’s least-developed countries.
The 2008 World Population Data Sheet also highlights disparities between developed and developing countries in population growth rate trends; as wealthier countries’ populations stagnate or even begin to decline, the populations of the world’s poorest countries continue to grow at a rapid clip. PRB president Bill Butz noted that “[n]early all of the world population growth is now concentrated in the world’s poorer countries,” and that “[e]ven the small amount of overall growth in the wealthier nations will largely result from immigration.” As Kent pointed out at yesterday’s press conference, the United States is the major exception to this trend, because most of its population growth over the next several decades will come from natural increase.
Unfortunately, the countries with the least access to improved water sources—and therefore some of the highest rates of diarrheal disease and child malnutrition—have among the world’s fastest-growing populations. For instance, in Ethiopia, which has a total fertility rate of 5.3 births per woman, only 42 percent of the population has access to an improved water source, and in Afghanistan, which has a total fertility rate of 6.8, the figure is a mere 22 percent.
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