Population Now versus 2050

As you may have noted in my previous demographics posts, I was tracking the population of the various nations I was looking at, both in 1950, currently and the estimated for 2050. Let me summarize briefly what we are looking at (measured in millions of people):

                                       1950                    2017                    2050

China                               583 (1953)         1,411                   1,360

India                                 361 (1951)         1,324                   1,700

United States                   151                       309  (2018)          402

Soviet Union/Russia        182  (1951)           143  (2018)          132

Japan                                83                        127                       109

Germany                           69                          83                        79


Now, a lot of numbers there. Let us set the U.S. at a value of 1 and everyone else at a value relative to it. So:

                                       1950                     2017                    2050

China                               3.86                     4.57                      3.38

India                                 2.39                     4.28                      4.23

United States                  1.00                     1.00                      1.00

Soviet Union/Russia         1.21                       .46                        .33

Japan                                 .55                        .41                        .27

Germany                            .46                        .27                        .20


So, during the height of the bad old days (1950s), the Soviet Union had more population that the U.S.; and China, part of the communist bloc and actually in a hot war with us, had four times the population. Now….well the Soviet Union is gone. In 2050,  China will only have three times the U.S. population while a number of major powers (like Japan, Germany and Russia) will be a smaller fraction of the U.S. population.

Again, I note that some people like to talk about America in decline on the world stage. I really don’t see it economically or demographically.

U.S. versus The World (GDP)

Of course, the real challenge would be predict GDPs in 2050. Probably can with the U.S. On the other hand, it is pretty hard to say where the Chinese economy will be in 2050. I would be hesitant to do a straight line estimate.

U.S. versus China (GDP)

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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  1. For an economic estimate out to 2050 I think EABER WORKING PAPER SERIES Paper No. 119 UNDERSTANDING AND APPLYING LONG-TERM GDP

    Did a good job of estimating. Of course doesn’t mean they’ll be 100% accurate but I’ve seen many estimates and theirs I thought was more level headed than most.

  2. Thanks. I will have to take a look at it. Of course, there are some problems predicting Chinese long-term GDP because:

    1. It is a communist dictatorship running a capitalist economy. This has never been tried before. Can these two opposing ideologies be merged into something that can sustain economic growth. We don’t know.

    2. Part of China’s growth was due to an underdeveloped economy developing. As the Chinese economy continues to develop, does its rate of growth slow (this does seem to be the case).

    3. There is some question as to whether China is in a economic bubble. The Japanese economy closed to within 70% of the U.S. economy by 1995 before they collapsed and shrunk and stagnated. They are now at 25% of the U.S. economy.

    4. Related to the above point, what happens as countries like India, with lower labor rates, continue to expand their manufacturing. Will they take some of their business, much like China took some of Japan’s business.

    5. There is the problem of the negative pull of declining population on the Chinese economy. This tends to produce a huge two-fold burden, where not only do you have a shortage of laborers, but you have an aging less-productive population that needs to be taken care of. It is a factor in the Japanese decline.

    6. There may be political instability in China. There was in 1989. Can one maintain tight political control forever over the top of a free market economy?

    7. There may be secessionist movements (Uigers and Tibet).

    8. Finally, China may break up. China has spent around half its history not unified in a single state. This was the case from 1916-1949. We have only had a unified China for 68 years. Will they still be unified 33 years from now. The U.S. only lasted 80 years before it split into two and fought a four year civil war.

  3. It doesn’t answer all those questions but I think it does deal with most, what I like about that report is that it boils things down to the real basics. It takes the demographic projections, which out to 2050 are really quite accurate short of doomsday arriving. Then it looks at productivity growth rates and that’s it. Which is true, if you have people’s productivity * the No. of people that’s your economic output. Also as they take long run averages they smooth over any kinds of recession, as just lowering the average.

    For USA and China they basically project that USA growth rates will be just under 2% on average out to 2050. For China they see it declining in its growth rate from about 6.8% on average this decade down to about 1.7% per annum in 2041-2050 (lower than the USA by then).

    It does focus more on PPP rather than market exchange rates so it’s more focused on people’s cost of living that geopolitics. But it does forecast the per capita PPP will be about half the USA level in China by 2050. Given that China will have almost 4 times the population this does mean the China will have almost double the USA’s PPP GDP.

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