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The Limits of Population Forecasting

Nathan Keyfitz
Population and Development Review
Vol. 7, No. 4 (Dec., 1981), pp. 579-593
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/1972799
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1972799
Page Count: 15
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The Limits of Population Forecasting
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Abstract

The user of forecasts needs to know how far published estimates of future population can be relied on. The most compact way of describing accuracy is by showing the average error of past forecasts. From over a thousand comparisons of forecast with realization--national, regional, and global and covering the past 30 years--the conclusion emerges that the odds are two to one that a forecast rate of increase @=0.4 percentage points will straddle the realized rate of increase over future periods. That means in practice useable forecasts for the next 5 to 20 years, virtually no information on the population 100 years hence.

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