The underpopulation theory gains traction

In a stark, anti-Malthusian turn, demographers are increasingly subscribing to the theory of underpopulation (or at least the possibility of a flattening of population growth) for the coming decades.

There is discussion by former population apologist turned pro-natal environmentalist Stewart Brand.  To put it bluntly:

So you have a youngish generation which is working like hell and not being distracted taking care of kids. And so, you get a boom….But then you pay for it later because the next generation of hard-working kids isn’t there. And as the hard-working generation, that cohort, gets older, they start to move from being productive to being dependent, and there’s not too many people for them to be dependent on, in the younger generation. And then you start to get a nation that looks like Florida.

And there’s the revelation that even women in under-developed countries are having less children, as soon as infant mortality is kept under control.

Demographers used to say that women only started having fewer children when they got educated and the economy got rich, as in Europe. But tell that to the women of Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest nations, where girls are among the least educated in the world, and mostly marry in their mid-teens. They have just three children now, less than half the number their mothers had. India is even lower, at 2.8. Tell that also to the women of Brazil. In this hotbed of Catholicism, women have two children on average—and this is falling. Nothing the priests say can stop it.

[E]ven the middle east is changing. Take Iran. In the past 20 years, Iranian women have gone from having eight children to less than two—1.7 in fact—whatever the mullahs say.

Here’s Melinda Gates on Charlie Rose, confirming the same findings (can’t embed the video, bummer, but around 17:40 is where she discusses fertility and decline in birth rates in developing regions).

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