Global Population

The United Nations projects that the human population will increase from the current 6.8 billion to between 8 billion and 10.5 billion in 2050

The United Nations projects that the human population will increase from the current 6.8 billion to between 8 billion and 10.5 billion in 2050

Global population is increasing by 160 more births than deaths every minute – over quarter of million every day. Ninety eight percent of this growth is in the developing world. Population interacts with many other key factors, from environmental change and economic growth to governance and violent conflict. While the details of future interactions are difficult to predict, the combination of these factors poses somber threats.

Most universities, and nearly all policy makers, have been reluctant to talk about population. For much of the past 20 years the Bixby Center has been almost alone in promoting a simple message:

  • Rapid population growth is largely driven by lack of access to family planning and a low status of women.
  • There are 80 million unintended pregnancies in the world each year – a number almost equivalent to the annual global population growth of 86.6 million (As a reference, the population of Germany is 80.6 million).

There is now renewed interest in population and family planning. The Bixby Center has contributed to this slow but important change in three ways.



  • In 2008, the three Bixby Centers at UC Berkeley, UCSF and UCLA host The Fred H. Bixby Forum on The World in 2050: A scientific investigation on the Impact of Global Population Changes on a Divided Planet, bringing together leading demographers, economists and family planning experts from around the world.
  • The Forum was published in a theme issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, The Impact of population growth on tomorrow’s world. This publication was used by the Gates Foundation and by USAID.
  • The Bixby team at UCB continues to publish on population and family planning. See
  • For twenty years, the Bixby Center has conducted operations research on task shifting, community based distribution of family planning, comprehensive abortion care and safe motherhood in Africa and Asia.
  • Where child marriage remains widespread, the Bixby Center has done pioneering work to increase enrollment and retention rates in secondary school in northern Nigeria.


Teaching and Mentoring:

One of the Center’s goals is to expand the cohort of skilled professionals with a commitment to population, global family planning and maternal health, for the benefit of future generations.  In additional to the Bixby Center’s  twenty core members,  it works with an exciting network of faculty associates, graduate and undergraduate students, associate fellows, summer interns, and collaborators abroad.  Students join the Center each year as researchers, instructors and volunteers.

The Center also offers graduate and undergraduate courses in population and poverty, family planning, population change and health, and private sector health services in developing countries; as well as serve as faculty advisors for various student-led courses each semester.  Bixby Center faculty give guest lectures in other UC Berkeley departments, universities and professional organizations.

Towards a more sustainable and less divided world:

We work to achieve slower population growth within a human rights framework by addressing the unmet need for family planning.  Ready access to contraception and safe abortion has decreased family size, even in illiterate communities living on less than a dollar a day.


The United Nations projections for the world population in 2100 vary between 6 and 16 billion. Whether the world population follows the upper or lower demographic trajectory is of major global significance and it will depend on actions taken now. We believe that meeting the unmet need for family planning will make possible a healthier, more prosperous, ecologically sustainable, and less divided world. Meeting the unmet need for family planning will be a major factor determining whether the planet can make the transition to a biologically sustainable life style with dignity and wellbeing for all people – or whether human numbers and human activity do irreversible damage to the planetary ecosystem.

The Bixby Center is proud of its contribution to population polices and family planning practices in a time when the stakes could not be higher.


Philippines forest 1990 and 1999. Unless altered, the current rate of population growth could have a crippling impact on the future welfare of the human and the natural world in this century.