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Animation: Total Fertility by life expectancy in China, India and the USA, 1950-2050

Source: World Population Prospects, the 2008 Revision. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Population Division, New York, 2009. See:
Note: Total Fertility (TFR) is the average number of births per woman.

The animation shows the simultaneous change of Total Fertility and Life Expectancy at Birth between 1950 and 2050 for all countries of the world. China, India and the United States of America are highlighted in colors. The Animation stops briefly in 2007 to mark the transition between historical estimates (mostly based on actual data) and projections.

Much better than words or data tables this data-generated animation can illustrate that the global demographic change is a highly dynamic process. It started in the early 1950s with a significant decline in mortality - indicated here by the increase in life expectancy. For most countries total fertility remained relatively unchanged. While life expectancy further increased, total fertility remaind high or even increased slightly. This delay in the fertility decline has triggered the unprecedented world population growth in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. Many countries had some kind of "baby boom" in that period. Then, after two or even three decades, fertility began to decline - first slowly (particularly at higher levels), then more rapidly (especially in the middle range of fertility of between 3 and 4 children). For the future, the United Nations Population Division projects that most countries of the world will approach reproductive levels of fertility of around 2.1 children per woman. Only a small number of countries, particularly in Africa, will remain at medium to high levels of fertility in 2050.

With world fertility and life expectancy trends in the background, it is most obvious how significant China's demographic transition has been for global demographic trends. With some delay in the early 1950s, China was a leader in mortality decline (indicated by rapidly increasing life expectancy at birth) and later, in the decline of fertility. Few other countries had a more rapid decline in fertility since the mid-1970s than China. Considering the country's huge population size, it can be argued, that China paved the way for the global demographic transition from high fertility and mortality to low fertility and high life expectancy. While India's fertility decline started much earlier than China's, it was much slower - causing not only a massive population increase in the past, but also a huge population momentum that will catapult India to outpace China and become the most populous nation by 2050.

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This data section was updated on 18 December 2011

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Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. - 18 April 2012