When will the human population peak? In this article, we build on classical results by Ansley Coale, who showed that when fertility declines steadily, births reach their maximum before fertility reaches replacement level, and the decline in total population size does not occur until several decades after fertility has reached that level. We extend Coale's results by modeling longevity increases, net immigration, and a slowdown in fertility decline that resembles current projections. With these extensions, our models predict a typical lag between replacement-level fertility and population decline of about 35 to 40 years, consistent with projections by the United Nations and about 15 years longer than the lag predicted by Coale. Our analysis helps reveal underlying factors in the timing of peak population.

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