Weekly Chart: Population Trends in Latin America

By Holly K. Sonneland

The growth rate is down across the region but urbanization keeps rising, according to the UN’s 2015 Human Development Report.

What’s the secret to a long life? Live in Latin America and the Caribbean, the region with the highest life expectancy, per the UN Development Program’s 2015 Human Development Report. The region’s average longevity hit 75.0 years in 2014, up from 67.7 years in 1990, and well above that of developing countries at 69.8 years and the global rate of 71.5 years. The report projects Latin America and the Caribbean’s populations will add close to 100 million people—about 15 percent of the region’s current population—by 2030, most of whom will live in cities.

Today, about half of the world’s people live in urban areas, producing 80 percent of global GDP. In Latin America and the Caribbean, however, 4 in 5 people live in metropolitan areas, and in some South American countries the figure goes up to more than 9 in 10.

But the growth poses developmental challenges as well, with an estimated 40 percent of urban expansion in slums. While rapid urbanization stresses things like sanitation infrastructure in the short-term, the report also notes how such growth can exacerbate social tensions since added jobs are often in informal work, which invariably leads to greater income inequality among socioeconomic groups.