Remembering a prominent ISI alumnus
Overpopulation: Mother of all myths
The world’s population is declining.
Those are fighting words in most circles but it’s the truth, and it’s occurring right before our eyes.
How can that be when in 2012 the US Census Bureau estimated the world population at 7 billion? That’s a lot of zeros! Well, the proof is in the statistics.
Let’s begin with what we know about fertility rate. To achieve perfect replacement, humans must have 2.13 children per woman. Some women have more children while others have fewer, but 2.13 is the magic number to maintain steady population. More than 90 countries (the USA and Canada among them) are currently experiencing a birthrate under that magic number . People are simply not having children.
And when we look at the 2009 United Nations documentation, “World Population Prospects” (yes, THE United Nations), the outlook appears grim. Not only do all six countries included on the chart show a marked birthrate decline over the last 60 years, but they all drop below the sustainability rate of 2.13 children per woman.
Pay close attention to the countries on the chart: the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Britain. All are world powers, and provide economic stability in their regions and to the world. So what if people stop having children? What difference does it make? There is a strong correlation between economic downturn and declining fertility rates.
Take a close look at Japan and Germany. Unlike the US, neither experienced baby booms following World War II, nor was Japan the recipient of US foreign aid like Germany was. Today, Japan is economically stagnant while Germany is holding their own. (Germany was also blessed with the great economic mind of Wilhelm Rӧpke who was rightfully credited with putting the German economy back on track following WWII.)
Is the US going the way of Japan? We currently have a strong flow of immigrants, which skews our numbers, hiding the truth of our steadily declining replacement birthrate. And, even countries of origin seem to be dwindling. From 1960 to 2009, Mexico’s fertility rates dropped from 7.3 to 2.4, while Brazil’s dropped from 6.15 to 1.9.
Declining fertility rates won’t be the sole cause of economic collapse in the US, but it sure will be a factor. After all, we need workers to support our economy and our retired population.
The only way to step back from the literal brink of extinction is to promote the culture of life in our society. We have no other choice.
For a great book on the West’s declining population, check out Jonathan Last’s What to Expect When No One’s Expecting.
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