The Population Problem

| 12/14/2011 3:52:27 PM

In Italy, the human population is officially stable. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, which keeps track of populations around the world, Italy gained about a million people between 1995 and 2005, but has now stabilized around 58 million legal residents.

Likewise Spain. Spain’s official population is projected to be stable around 40 million people for the foreseeable future. Germany is steady at 82 million. And Finland. Stable at about 5 million people.

Numerous economic studies show that the most prosperous countries generally have slower rates of population growth. Economists have even given the phenomenon a name. They call it the “demographic-economic paradox.” It’s a paradox because a lot of wise people, including Thomas Robert Malthus, have theorized that prosperous societies will have more children because they can afford them. Not so, apparently.

As developing nations achieve a certain level of prosperity, the health and education level of their citizens improves. When a society improves health and education – for women, specifically – the birth rate falls. Prosperous people recognize the incentives for raising small families. In more prosperous countries, the quality of life is determined more by the family’s overall level of education than by the number of laborers in the household. And affluent people in the world today are reasonably confident that all their children will survive to adulthood. In poor countries with high childhood-mortality rates it makes sense to hedge your bet on your offspring by having more of them.

In much of the world, a large family is a genetic – and social – insurance policy.

Poor people, if they want to be cared for in their old age, can improve their chances by having more children. If you’re very poor, your children are your employees, your economic safety net and, eventually, they provide your nursing home in their own houses.

12/12/2014 2:51:27 AM

the world’s poorest countries, including Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda, India. Countries like those are providing valuable immigrant labor across the globe, without which many of the rich nations with stable populations would founder, economically. In the Netherlands the people alreade know more and more homeless people, food help, the are dependant on the social security . The ones with no jobs are more and more pushed to take work under the minium wages (salary')s otherwise they get no money. And the worst part is the most of them pay there whole live a Insurance for when the lost their work. The govermentand and the big firm's were importing workers out the midle east, now Poland and the old sovjet Union. in my home city alone there are living more people from outside the country then the originals.

Mary Williams
3/22/2012 4:31:50 PM

Very few people are even considering this. So many people are living day to day. The problem has continued too long. Then we have the "get rich quick" game of today; it's glorified everywhere, and many people just don't care about tomorrow. One could talk until she's blue in the face and no one would listen. The great amount of children born haphazardly will continue and the haphazard thinking will abide with them. It will all come to a big head and we'll have to employ emergency measures when it does. We have to grow up on the small scale to make things work on the larger scale. I don't see that happening any time soon. People who think are just way outnumbered by those who don't.

Bryan Welch
3/22/2012 3:55:48 PM

I agree with your conclusion that we'll need to stabilize the economic model, and I've written about that extensively. See

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