In 1959 CBS Reports presented the population explosion to viewers as a crisis whose ingredients were statistical. Conceptualizing quantification as a socially situated media practice, this article interrogates the history of the production and circulation of the demographic data and the iconic figures that brought the population crisis to life. The analysis exhumes the intertwined quantitative contingencies and affective associations in three demographic formations: the calibration of natural fertility and pregnancy risk that naturalized fertility as an excessive feature of “other” women's bodies; accounts of population dynamics haunted by racialized feminine figures of natural excess and cultural incompetence; and population projection procedures that elided mortality and amplified the effects of fertility on population growth and economic development. The resulting figures, deployed by US demographers in a concerted media campaign, provoked a mathematical panic about global futures that moved nations to intervene in women's reproductive lives.

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