Society

Worldwide Population Throughout Human History

The world's population has grown almost 40-fold in the last two millennia, and more than quadrupled in the last century alone.

A common question that people have asked throughout all ages ask is about the history of the world population. Specifically, how many people have ever lived and when? Scientific evidence suggests that the world population has changed drastically throughout history and at different periods of the development of earth. Once growing slowly and sustainably, over the last century population growth has been exponential and giving rise to ever greater levels of concern.

Historical Growth of Human Population

Ancient Humans

Researchers believe that the human population began around 3 million years ago, but as hunter-gatherers, the population size remained small. In fact, around 130,000 years Before the Common Era (BCE), the number of humans on earth was only around 200,000 and largely concentrated on what is now the African continent. This is also when humans began migrating to other areas of Africa from the eastern side due a changing climate that brought on food and water shortages at levels not previously experienced. The two go hand in hand, food cannot be produced without water. There are already areas in the world without reliable access to water and 700 million people suffer from scarcity. Food and water insecurity disproportionately affects the disadvantaged and those living in poverty. This presents a challenge to governments everywhere as the need exists for them to create policy to address these issues and ensure equal access to resources.

Future Growth

The majority of future population growth is expected to occur throughout less developed nations like those in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. This is expected because the standard of living is expected to improve within these regions. Estimates claim the world population will grow to 9 billion by 2050. This huge number brings up the question of the earth’s carrying capacity. The carrying capacity is the ability of earth to meet the demand of natural resources by a particular species. One thing is certain, the earth is near the end of its capacity and soon will be unable to sustain human demand. Unrestrained population growth cannot continue if the human species is to survive.

Worldwide Population Throughout Human History

Estimated Human Population WorldwideYear
200,000c. 130,000 BCE
3 Millionc. 10,000 BCE
10 Millionc. 6,500 BCE
50 Millionc. 2,000 BCE
200 Millionc. 0 CE/BCE
1 Billion1804
2 Billion1927
3 Billion1959
4 Billion1974
5 Billion1987
6 Billion1999
7 Billion2012

More in Society