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Global population growth sure for many decades, most in developing countries

WASHINGTON -- Global population growth is ensured for many decades, with most of it in developing countries, a private group said Tuesday.

The rapid growth in developing countries, combined with declining birth rates in some industrialized nations could affect the ability of the wealthy to aid the poor, said a demographer who prepared the group's report.

"The countries of today's developing world are growing almost three times faster than the developed countries," said Carl Haub, a demographer for the Population Reference Bureau, a private research group. "The global population growth today has concentrated in the poorest countries and the poorest areas of those countries.


"Almost 99 percent of population growth today and for the foreseeable future will be in those developing countries," he said. "There has been a complete shift in population growth."

The bureau's study found that in many industrialized countries and in some developing countries such as China and Thailand, average fertility is below the two-child average.

"Because these low fertility levels lead to population decline sooner or later, some reports have sounded alarm about the possibility of a worldwide 'birth dearth,"' the report said.

However, the majority of the world's countries have a fertility rate above the two child level, the study said, and have large numbers of women of reproductive age due to high fertility in the past.

Haub said the decline in the birth rate in some industrialized countries could put them "in less of a position to help developing countries. These are countries that traditionally have been quite generous in terms of foreign aid."

The report said the complex and unpredictable nature of fertility rates have dramatic effects on population size, making the issue the subject of much debate because national and international health, economic and other policies and programs may be based on population size.

In a recent analysis of survey data between 1990 and 2003 in developing countries, demographer John Bongaarts of the Population Council, an international nonprofit research organization, found that some nations had not yet experienced fertility decline while others had "stalled" in their transition from high fertility rates to low fertility rates, the report said.

The study said use of modern contraceptives is more common among wealthy women than poor women in nearly all countries and the gap is particularly pronounced in the poorest countries, in places as diverse as Uganda and Nepal.

World population growth will continue, the study said, reaching 6.5 billion in 2005 and going to 7 billion in about seven years. Of that growth, 99 percent will be in developing countries.

The United States is projected to remain the third most populous nation behind India and China through 2050, with population increasing from 296 million to 420 million, the report said. While China has the world's largest population in 2005 at 1.3 billion, India, now No. 2, will overtake China by 2050 with 1.6 billion.

Other highlights of the study:

-- Africa's infant mortality rate is nearly 15 times that of the more developed world.

-- The more developed world uses more than five times the energy per capita than the less developed world.

-- People in North America use more than eight times as much energy as people in Latin America.

-- Nearly one-third of rural residents worldwide lack access to safe drinking water.

Associated Press Writer Will Lester contributed to this story.

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