National Populations

Midyear estimates of the de facto definition of population, which counts all residents regardless of legal status or citizenship

  • Source: World Bank Group/UNDP/Eurostat/UNSD/U.S. Census Bureau/Pacific Community

The 'Population, total' dataset released by the World Bank data catalog is based on the de facto definition of population, which counts all residents regardless of legal status or citizenship. The values shown are midyear estimates. Population estimates are usually based on national population censuses. Estimates for the years before and after the census are interpolations or extrapolations based on demographic models. Errors and undercounting occur even in high-income countries. The spatial coverage of this data set is global and on the national level, and the temporal coverage runs from 1960 through present day. In developing countries errors may be substantial because of limits in the transport, communications, and other resources required to conduct and analyze a full census. The quality and reliability of official demographic data are also affected by public trust in the government, government commitment to full and accurate enumeration, confidentiality and protection against misuse of census data, and census agencies' independence from political influence. Moreover, comparability of population indicators is limited by differences in the concepts, definitions, collection procedures, and estimation methods used by national statistical agencies and other organizations that collect the data. The currentness of a census and the availability of complementary data from surveys or registration systems are objective ways to judge demographic data quality. Some European countries' registration systems offer complete information on population in the absence of a census. The United Nations Statistics Division monitors the completeness of vital registration systems. Some developing countries have made progress over the last 60 years, but others still have deficiencies in civil registration systems. International migration is the only other factor besides birth and death rates that directly determines a country's population growth. Estimating migration is difficult. At any time many people are located outside their home country as tourists, workers, or refugees or for other reasons. Standards for the duration and purpose of international moves that qualify as migration vary, and estimates require information on flows into and out of countries that is difficult to collect. Population projections, starting from a base year are projected forward using assumptions of mortality, fertility, and migration by age and sex through 2050, based on the UN Population Division's World Population Prospects database medium variant.

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Formal name

Population, total

Cautions

Current population estimates for developing countries that lack (i) reliable recent census data, and (ii) pre- and post-census estimates for countries with census data, are provided by the United Nations Population Division and other agencies. The cohort component method - a standard method for estimating and projecting population - requires fertility, mortality, and net migration data, often collected from sample surveys, which can be small or limited in coverage. Population estimates are from demographic modeling and so are susceptible to biases and errors from shortcomings in both the model and the data. In the UN estimates the five-year age group is the cohort unit and five-year period data are used; therefore interpolations to obtain annual data or single age structure may not reflect actual events or age composition. Because future trends cannot be known with certainty, population projections have a wide range of uncertainty.

Suggested citation

World Bank Group. "Population, total" https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL Accessed through Resource Watch, (date). www.resourcewatch.org.

Sources

World Bank Group
United Nations Population Division (UNPD)
Census reports and other statistical publications from national statistical offices
Eurostat
United Nations Statistical Division
U.S. Census Bureau
Secretariat of the Pacific Community

Geographic coverage

Global

Date of content

1960-2017

Frequency of updates

Annual

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