Population growth rates began to decline around 1960, and the decline is expected to continue during the coming decade. Demographic expansion occurred at a rate of 2.1% a year for the world as a whole during 1960-1970; according to United Nations estimates, it should be only 1.7% a year during 1990-2000. This fall in population growth rates is expected to occur in all groups of countries, be they rich or poor, capitalist or socialist, but not in all regions. Thus, in the capitalist developing countries the population growth rate is expected to fall from 2.5% a year in 1960-1970 to 2.3% in 1990-2000, while in China and the other Asian planned economies the decline is expected to be from 2.4% in 1960-1970 to 1.3% in 1990-2000.
Reporting for the USA in 1996, The President's Council on Sustainable Development concluded that the efficiency in the use of all resources would have to increase by more than fifty percent over the next four or five decades just to keep pace with population growth.
Within the third world, population growth rates are expected to remain high (3.2% a year) in West Asia and to continue to accelerate (to 3.3% a year) in sub-Saharan Africa. Elsewhere they should fall, sometimes sharply. It is perhaps too early to claim that the population problem has been solved, but attention in future is likely to be focused less on the overall rate of increase and more on the rate of increase in urban areas, which continues to be high despite the diminished overall rate of population growth. In 1980-1985, for instance, the urban population grew 3.1% a year in the low-income economies and 3.7% a year in the middle-income economies, as compared to total population growth rates in the two groups of countries of 1.9 and 2.3%, respectively.
The population growth rate is one of the most critical factors influencing a country's development. Rapid population growth strains a country's natural resources and its ability to provide adequate infrastructure and services.
Rapid demographic expansion is not likely, in general, to be as great an obstacle to accelerating economic growth in the 1990s as perhaps it was in earlier decades. The main international and domestic barriers are likely to lie elsewhere.