Adjusting to the fertility bust

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Science  10 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6206, pp. 163-164
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260504

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Fertility in the United States is at an all-time low, having reached a rate of 1.86 children per woman of child-bearing age in 2013 (1). Researchers warn of the worldwide “low-fertility trap” (2), and the population of Europe is projected to decline in the next 25 years (3). Should we be worried? On page 229 of this issue, Lee et al. (4) argue that moderately low fertility and modest population decline favor a higher living standard. They are not alone in urging restraint to concerns about population aging (5) but have painstakingly assembled a new data set to make their point very clearly. Meanwhile, Gerland et al. contend on page 234 of this issue (6) that the world population will still grow substantially and is unlikely to stop growing in this century. However, almost all of the projected population increase by 2100 is confined to sub-Saharan Africa, with almost all other continents and major countries experiencing declining rates of population growth and rising ratios of elders to workers.