World population growth is slowing largely because of increasing mortality rates related to the AIDS epidemic and declining fertility rates, according to a Census Bureau report released on Monday.
The report predicts that the world population will increase by nearly 50% over the next 50 years, from 6.2 billion in 2002 to 9.1 billion in 2050. However, the growth rate is expected to slow to 0.42% by 2050, compared with 1.2% between 2001 and 2002, the report states.
The decline in the rate of population growth is tied primarily to declining fertility rates. In 1990 women gave birth to an average of 3.3 children during their lifetimes, according to the study. By 2002 the average had dropped to 2.6 children per woman, and the bureau predicts that it will fall below the level needed for population replacement before 2050.
Most of the estimated 40 million HIV-positive people in the world are expected to die within the next 10 years, according to the report. Demographers predict that the average life expectancy in several African countries will drop to around 30 years by 2010, in large part because of the AIDS epidemic. Botswana, South Africa, and other countries in Asia, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa could experience population declines due to deaths from AIDS-related complications.
The report states that the trend could be reversed if AIDS education programs are successfully expanded in developing nations. The bureau gives credit to Thailand, Uganda, and Senegal, where the HIV/AIDS epidemic appears to have been curbed because of prevention efforts.