How many people are alive on earth today? Figuring out the current human population is a popular question to ask. The current US Census Bureau world population estimate in 2016 shows that there are approximately 7,346,235,000 people on earth as of August 23, 2016, which far exceeds the population of 7.2 billion from 2015.
As well as containing the latest world population estimate, this article contains information about the history of population growth, and details of the world's largest countries and cities.
7 billion people in the world?
Although the number given above seems very precise, it is important to remember that it is just an estimate. It simply isn't possible to be sure exactly how many people there are on the earth at any one time, and there are conflicting estimates of the global population in 2016.
The United States Census Bureau estimates there is one birth every 7 seconds and one death every 13 seconds, with a net gain of one person on earth every 11 seconds.
Map of the world if each country was the same relative size as its population:
Some, including the UN, believe that a population of 7 billion was reached in October 2011. Others, including the US Census Bureau and World Bank, believe that the total population of the world reached 7 billion in 2012, around March or April.
History of World Population Growth
Throughout most of history, the world's population has been much smaller than it is now. Before the invention of agriculture, for example, the human population was estimated to be around 15 million people at most.
Here's an interesting perspective on today's world population in 2016: today's world population (~7 billion) is approximately 6% of the estimated 110 billion who have ever lived.
The introduction of agriculture and the gradual movement of humanity into settled communities saw the global population increase gradually to around 300 million by AD 0. To give you an idea of scale, the Roman Empire, which many regard as one of the strongest empires the world has ever seen, probably contained only around 50 million people at its height; that's less than the number of people in England today.
It wasn't until the early 19th century that the world population reached its first big milestone: 1 billion people. Then, as the industrial revolution took hold and living standards improved, the rate of population growth increased considerably. Over the next hundred years, the population of the world doubled, reaching 2 billion in the late 1920s.
The 20th century, however, is where population growth really took off, and over the past 100 years, the planet's population has more than tripled in size. This massive increase in human population is largely due to improvements in diet, sanitation and medicine, especially compulsory vaccination against many diseases.
Here's a timeline of the world population growth:
- Year 1: 200 million
- Year 1000: 275 million
- Year 1500: 450 million
- Year 1650: 500 million
- Year 1750: 700 million
- Year 1804: 1 billion
- Year 1850: 1.2 billion
- Year 1900: 1.6 billion
- Year 1927: 2 billion
- Year 1950: 2.55 billion
- Year 1955: 2.8 billion
- Year 1960: 3 billion
- Year 1970: 3.7 billion
- Year 1985: 4.85 billion
- Year 1999: 6 billion
- Year 2011: 7 billion
- Year 2025: 8 billion
How much larger can the world population get?
What happens next isn't quite so clear.
Most people agree that population increases will continue, but there are arguments about the rate of increase, and even a few people who believe population decreases are likely. You can see some example trends in this graph.
The United Nations has gradually been revising its predictions downwards, and now believes that the world population in 2050 will be around 9 billion (illustrated by the yellow line on the chart). It believes that, as the world grows steadily richer and the average family size decreases, growth will steadily slow and eventually stop.
However, others believe that poverty, inequality and continued urbanization will encourage steadily increasing growth, particularly in countries in Africa and parts of Asia, where growth is already much higher than the global average.
A few scientists even believe that populations will decrease. Some believe that gradual increases in living standards will result in similar patterns to those in Western Europe, where birth rates are declining rapidly. Others believe that the current world population is unsustainable, and predict that humanity will simply not be able to produce enough food and oil to feed itself and sustain our industrial economy.
Largest Countries in the World 2016
More than half of the world's current population lives in just ten countries.
The largest country in the world today is, of course, China, which is one of only two countries with a population of more than a billion people. To give you an indication of scale, with 1.36 billion people, China today has four times as many people as the United States of America.
Here's a list of the ten largest countries in the world today:
- Russia has fallen from 8th to 9th since 2012.
Smallest Countries in the World
By contrast, the total population of the world's smallest countries is only just under 300,000. The smallest country in the world in 2016 is Vatican City, the small enclave within the Italian city of Rome that is ruled by the Pope and home to just over 800 people.
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Largest Cities in the World
More than a hundred million people live in the world's ten largest cities. Here's a list of the largest cities in the world by population, most of which are in Asia:
This list sorts cities by the population in the city proper. The list looks very different when cities are listed by metropolitan population, in which case it breaks down as follows: Tokyo (36.9 million), Shanghai (34 million), Jakarta (30 million), Seoul (25.5 million), Guangzhou (25 million), Beijing (24.9 million), Shenzhen (23.3 million), Delhi (21.7 million), Mexico City (21.3 million), and Lagos (21 million).
More information about the 2016 world population
This is just a basic introduction to the world population in 2016. For more information, check out any of the links or videos in the article, or feel free to explore the rest of our site!