Development & Education

World is ticking toward a milestone: 7 billionth person expected on Halloween

This story is a part of

Human Needs

This story is a part of

Human Needs


The crowded streets of Harajuku, Tokyo, illustrate the growing global population. The United Nations predicts the global population will top 7 billion on monday. (Photo by Flickr user GlobalCitizen01, cc-by-sa)

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The world is marching toward a miletone.

Statistically speaking, the 7 billionth person is expected to be born next Monday, Oct. 31. We hit 6 billion in 1999 and 5 billion in 1987. But it took 123 years to move from 1 billion to 2 billion, in 1928.

We're expected to hit 8 billion in just 15 years.

Matthew Connelly, the author of "Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population" and a professor at Columbia University, said this population growth is something that happens over generations and while the growth continues at an impressive pace, we've actually made some progress in slowing it down.

"The funny thing about population growth is people make it seem like its explosive. But really, these things creep up on us," he said. "It's like an ocean liner. Even though we've almost stopped the engines and begun to turn things around, it takes time to show progress."

Connelly said this population growth really isn't about increasing birth rates, so much as it is the growth in life expectancy. As an example, Connelly said the life expectancy in India in 1920 was 19 years. Now, it's more than 60.

"How we got here really wasn't that people started breeding like rabbits, it's really that they stopped dying like flies," he said.

Reacing 7 billion really doesn't make a huge difference for the world,Connelly said. And neither will 8 billion. But, at some point, the world will have a problem if the growth doesn't stop.

"If there are 10 billion people all trying to live like Americans, then we're all in trouble," Connelly said.


"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.