Humankind is now double the size it was in 1973.
Of course, that growth has been far from uniform, and the ranking of the world’s most populous countries continues to evolve.
The Top 10 Most Populous Countries
Here are the countries shown above, including how much they’ve grown over the past 50 years:
The numbers above highlight the extreme variance in growth for these world’s most populous countries. While Germany has grown by just 6% over the past 50 years, Pakistan and Nigeria have nearly quadrupled their populations.
Half a century ago, there were only six countries with populations of over 100 million. Today, there are 15 countries past that mark, with Vietnam positioned to hit that milestone next.
The Top 20 Most Populous Countries
Things get even more interesting when we examine the top 20 most populous countries over the same time period.
Looking back 50 years ago, Nigeria was the lone African nation in the top 20. Today, it is joined by Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – all of which have experienced staggering population growth.
African nations are expected to lead population growth over the next few decades. By 2100, one quarter of the world’s people are expected to be African.
Europe is the flip side of this equation. Back in 1973, there were six European countries in this top list. Today, only Russia and Germany remain, with the latter country soon to fall out of the top 20 ranking.
Ukraine, which was shrinking, is expected to fall to at least 41st place due to the turmoil surrounding the Russian invasion of the country. Since the invasion began in February 2022, nearly 14 million border crossings have been recorded from Ukraine to other countries.
How Big Will Populations Get?
Once India becomes the world’s largest country, it will likely remain so for many decades in the future, peaking in the 2060s (unless there are substantial changes in projected growth rates). India’s peak population will stand at around 1.7 billion people.
The world’s population is expected to peak later, around the 2080s. Humanity’s peak population is expected to be about 10.5 billon.