Halloween may seem the perfect day for the world population to reach 7 billion—after all, it’s a terrifying milestone, right? Wrong, writes economist David Lam, president of the Population Association of America, in the Los Angeles Times. “The parents of the 7-billionth person should not be afraid for their child's future,” he notes. That child "will almost surely have a better life than the 3-billionth or 6-billionth child." Because, for one thing, the fastest population growth the world has seen ... has already occurred.
The 3-billionth child was born in 1960, and the population doubled in 39 years. Thanks to falling fertility rates, it's unlikely that it will double again. "We may never get much above the 10.1 billion people projected for 2100," Lam notes. We survived the biggest population explosion, which makes now "a good time to look back and see how" we did it. Though distribution problems persist, over the past half-century, world food production has increased faster than population. Education has improved, and poverty rates have dropped—even in hardest-hit sub-Saharan Africa. There are big challenges ahead, acknowledges Lam, but "the remarkable experience of the last 50 years" proves we needn’t be scared to "celebrate the birth of the 7-billionth child."