Tuesday, December 15, 2009

PL 70/69: Global population statistics

Filed under: statistics — plinius @ 12:49 pm

Library statistics can not stand alone.

When we work with statistics about libraries, we will often need statistics from other fields. Population data are needed to calculate some of  the most basic library indicators – for instance loans and visits per capita. Statistics about literacy and reading, health and education,  infrastructure (water, roads, electricity, …) and culture can often be used to

  • show the need for library services – focused on particular problems to be solved
  • the impact of library services – based on comparisons or time series

Library associations that want to use statistics for advocacy must therefore spend some time getting acquainted with the relevant official statistics – outside the library sector – in their own countries.

In the GLOSSA project – or Global statistics for advocacy, we have to do the same at the global level. Since the Second World War, lots of good work has been done, by the UN and others, to collect, systematize and present comparative national statistics.  During the last fifteen years, internet has facilitated the development of sophisticated, user-friendly and interactive statistical delivery systems. The most impressive one to date is probably Gapminder – with the slogan Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact-based world view.

The  United Nations Population Information Network has created an excellent guide to population information on UN system web sites. GeoHive – a site devoted to global statistics – looks professional.  The World Factbook – a well-known source among reference librarians – is still going strong. The data are good though the publisher may be spooky.  Google is also developing statististical presentations – see Adding search power to public data.



The following data from GeoHive show all countries with more than 100 million inhabitants in 1950, 2010 and 2050


  1. China  563
  2. India 370
  3. USA 152
  4. Russia 102


  1. China   1,348
  2. India 1,184
  3. USA 309
  4. Indonesia 243
  5. Brazil 201
  6. Pakistan 180
  7. Bangladesh 160
  8. Nigeria 152
  9. Russia 139
  10. Japan 127
  11. Mexico 112

Today, half the world’s population lives in six countries – China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan.

2050 (estimate)

  1. India   1,808
  2. China 1,424
  3. USA 420
  4. Indonesia 313
  5. Pakistan 295
  6. Bangladesh 280
  7. Ethiopia 278
  8. Nigeria 264
  9. Brazil 261
  10. Congo, DR 189
  11. Philippines 171
  12. Mexico 148
  13. Uganda 128
  14. Egypt 128
  15. Russia 109
  16. Vietnam 108

In 2050, by this estimate, India has rather more people than China. The curves will cross in 2030. The new “hundred million countries”  are Ethiopia, Congo (DR), Philippines, Uganda, Egypt and Vietnam.

Bangladesh has replaced Brazil among the top six. Russia has declined from 139 to 109 million – and Japan has sunk below the horizon – from 127 to 94 million.


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