August 20, 2002


Experts Scale Back Estimates of World Population Growth (BARBARA CROSSETTE, August 20, 2002, NY Times)
Demography has never been an exact science. Ever since social thinkers began trying to predict the pace of population growth a century or two ago, the people being counted have been surprising the experts and confounding projections. Today, it is happening again as stunned demographers watch birthrates plunge in ways they never expected.

Only a few years ago, some experts argued that economic development and education for women were necessary precursors for declines in population growth. Today, village women and slum families in some of the poorest countries are beginning to prove them wrong, as fertility rates drop faster than predicted toward the replacement level - 2.1 children for the average mother, one baby to replace each parent, plus a fraction to compensate for unexpected deaths in the overall population. [...]

As a result, United Nations demographers who once predicted the earth's population would peak at 12 billion over the next century or two are scaling back their estimates. Instead, they cautiously predict, the world's population will peak at 10 billion before 2200, when it may begin declining.

Conservatives and neoconservatives (Ben Wattenberg for one) have been sounding the alarm about the pending population implosion for at least twenty years now. and the thing to keep in mind is this : there are innumerable instances of countries growing their economies while their population explodes, but to the best of my knowledge we know of no case where a country has been able to sustain economic growth while its population declines. We need only look at Japan to see what happens when even a modern industrialized nation stops growing its population. Economic decline follows, just as surely as night follows day. Posted by Orrin Judd at August 20, 2002 7:26 PM
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