Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Global Aging and Underpopulation

A recent article from Foreign Policy magazine discusses the growing worldwide elderly population. As discussed in the article, this demographic transition has huge implications, for example a growing percentage of non-working citizens. One of the surprising discoveries FP makes is that this is not only occurring in "developed" nations, but also in "developing" nations like India and Iran. Although the Earth didn't hold a billion people until the early 1800's, it is quickly approaching 7 billion. The reasons for the population increase are clear. Modern technology allowed us to safely have children and lived much longer. Mankind has come a long way, especially in the last 200 years.

However this population growth is now turning into population aging and will probably be followed by a population slowdown. I'm curious if we will ever have more than 10 billion people total. Europe and Japan are currently experiencing a natural population decrease, with immigrants keeping their total population from decreasing. However the explanation for decreasing fertility rates isn't so clear. Economist Oded Galor has crunched some numbers and confirmed the following reasons:
First there is the theory that the higher demand for human capital during industrialization lead to a decline in fertility as parents concentrated more on the quality of their children rather than their quantity. Second, as the wage gap between females and males decreased, the increase in female labor force participation and the associated higher opportunity cost of having children for mothers reinforced the decrease in fertility.
Also interesting is the reasons that don't seem to be true:
the theory that the emergence of financial markets made in less necessary for parents to have been adult children to support them in old age; the theory that a decline in mortality lead to a too high number of surviving children; and the theory that the general increase in income lead to a rising opportunity cost of raising children.
So do your part and have more kids, as soon as you can.


  1. Sometime that bugs me about the figure is that neanderthals are not human beings. They are considered a different species or subspecies. Though we have similar ancestors, humans did not evolve from neanderthals.

    Humans did however interbreed with neanderthals. Bonus points!

  2. In Victorian age the life expectancy plummeted
    (18 years)from Medieval period. I couldn't think of many reasons other than war..

    what's your take ?

  3. Andy,

    I'll take your word for it. That's above my pay grade.


    I think it was the diseases (at least according to the figure). My guess is cities were just starting to flourish, but still without running water and other important disease preventing technologies.

  4. Yeah, I checked wiki on this. It refers something on the samelines.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.