An unusual hero

Last week, Hans Rosling died. Who, you might ask, and why mention him? Well, he might have been one of our few statistical heroes, a man who dedicated his life to the spread of knowledge through the correct use of statistics, and to me, that’s enough reason to honour his passing. If you have a spare hour, I strongly recommend you to watch this video of him, as an example:

Trust me, it is worth it. And as soon as he starts talking, you will be hooked, as he was a very gifted speaker; and statistician of course.

The story he tells here is about the world’s population growth, and the population boom we are currently undergoing.


More people live in cities than ever before in human history. Here, London

The best part of the talk is that, even while you think you know the basics of the story (the booming population growth resulting from a time difference between the improvement in health care and the reduction in family size), he can still blow you off your feet.



And what he wants to convince you of in this video narrows down to this: don’t panic! It is not all as bad as it seems. Countries everywhere in the world are evolving, people are fighting their way out of poverty and the average family even has only 2,5 children anymore, even in less wealthy parts of Asia.

Yes, that last value might be surprising, yet it is most certainly true: we have reached – as he calls it – ‘peak child’. There won’t be more children between the age of 0 and 15 anymore in the future, the number will stay constant at 2 billion.


Delft, the Netherlands

But why is the population still growing so tremendously, even if we reached ‘peak child’? In short: pure mathematics. While there are not more children being born anymore, so the population boom is theoretically over, there are still less old people dying, and that will inevitably be the case till we reach a stable world population at 9 billion. So yes, population is still growing tremendously. However, and that is the big surprise that statistics can show us: this population boom is not at all due (anymore) to uncontrolled child births in extremely poor parts of Africa and Asia.



And even though it might still look at first sight like things are rapidly getting out of hand with our little world, Hans Rosling convincingly shows that it is not all as bad as you think. The population growth is fixing itself, and the world is rapidly taking care of extreme poverty as well. Climate change is the next tough issue to tackle, but it is worth it to stay optimistic that we find solutions for that as well. But who is better suited to convince you about that than Hans Rosling himself? The answer is right there in that beautiful piece of video.

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5 Responses to An unusual hero

  1. A great man lost when we most need him.

  2. miriamvanbeek says:

    Sterk verhaal, dank voor het delen!

    Verzonden vanaf Samsung-tablet.

  3. Fascinating and will try to watch. I like the idea of peak child!

    • Indeed, although it is an easy concept, I didn’t know it before and it actually helps a lot to understand many important global trends. And yes, you should watch it, he explains it very nicely!

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