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World Population Prospects and Unmet Need for Family Planning

by Scott Moreland, Ellen Smith, Sharma Suneeta


Over the past 30 years, the use of modern family planning methods has increased dramatically in the developing world, leading to a fall in fertility rates. Yet there are still significant levels of demand for family planning that are unmet. If this unmet need were met, unintended pregnancies would be fewer, women’s health and lives would be improved, and the consequent impact on fertility would result in lower population growth and measured development benefits. This paper estimates what the demographic impact of meeting this unmet need would be for the developing world and the United States, and compares this scenario with three United Nations fertility variants. The United Nations (UN) provides estimates of future fertility trajectories for the countries of the world through 2050.1 These estimates are widely used by researchers, planners, and policy makers and are a widely respected reference source when detailed population projections prepared at the country level are unavailable. The UN estimates are based on projections of fertility derived from past trends, as well as estimates of future life expectancy. We estimate the family planning implications of the three UN projections and compare them with the fourth “unmet need” scenario. We compare the demographic implications of the unmet need scenario with those of the three UN scenarios, as well as the implied family planning costs.

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