Recount Your Dead

Do the living outnumber the dead?

Claim:   The number of people alive today is greater than the number of people who have ever died.

Status:   False.

Origins:   Any statement about the number of people who have died since
time began is, of course, a rough estimate, and the answer is also largely dependent upon our definition of when "time began." Estimates for the number of people who have died since the pyramids were built (i.e., about 5,000 years ago) are around 6 billion, which is fairly close to the current world population. But if we consider modern humans to have emerged around 40,000 to 45,000 years ago, estimates about the number of dead in human history vary widely — anywhere from 12 billion to up to 110 billion. However, most demographers peg the number of dead at approximately 60 billion, which means that there are several dead ancestors for each one of us, and we're not likely to catch up for a long, long time — if ever.

Last updated:   21 July 2007

  Sources Sources:
    Dillard, Annie.   "The Wreck of Time."
    Harper's.   January 1998   (p. 51).

    Dyer, Gwynne.   "With Luck, We May Live in Hunter-Gatherer Ease."
    The Baltimore Sun.   24 November 1995   (p. A29).

    Thatcher, Roger.   "The Living Dead."
    New Scientist.   6 January 1996   (p. 69).

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