AbstractThe 20th century has seen unprecedented growth of the human population on this planet. While at the beginning of the century the Earth had an estimated 1.6 billion inhabitants, this number grew to 6.1 billion by the end of the century, and further significant growth is a near certainty. This paper tries to summarize what factors lie behind this extraordinary expansion of the human population and what population growth we can expect for the future. It discusses the concept of demographic transition and the preconditions for a lasting secular fertility decline. Recent fertility declines in all parts of the world now make it likely that human population growth will come to an end over the course of this century, but in parts of the developing world significant population growth is still to be expected over the coming decades. The slowing of population growth through declining birth rates, together with still increasing life expectancy, will result in a strong ageing of population age structure. Finally, this paper presents a global level systematic analysis of the relationship between population density on the one hand, and growth and fertility rates on the other. This analysis indicates that in addition to the well-studied social and economic determinants, population density also presents a significant factor for the levels and trends of human birth rates.