“Exponential” Does NOT Mean “Fast”!

by Carl Haub, senior demographer, Population Reference Bureau

I’ve seen many occasions where writers have stated that a particular population is growing “exponentially.” That term seems to have evolved to mean “fast.”  The exponential rate—as opposed to percentage increase—is the one usually used to measure population growth. So let’s take a look at what it really means and, honestly, I’m definitely not being picky here. Exponential growth simply means that something, be it money in the bank or the population of Egypt, grows continuously. Compounding continuously is another way of saying it.

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