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May 3, 2009
By: Hilzoy

Well, I Think Demographics Is Interesting ...

Here's a fascinating article on global demographics (h/t):

"Something dramatic has happened to the world's birthrates. Defying predictions of demographic decline, northern Europeans have started having more babies. Britain and France are now projecting steady population growth through the middle of the century. In North America, the trends are similar. In 2050, according to United Nations projections, it is possible that nearly as many babies will be born in the United States as in China. Indeed, the population of the world's current demographic colossus will be shrinking. And China is but one particularly sharp example of a widespread fall in birthrates that is occurring across most of the developing world, including much of Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The one glaring exception to this trend is sub-Saharan Africa, which by the end of this century may be home to one-third of the human race."

It's full of interesting facts. For instance, I didn't know this:

"Iran is experiencing what may be one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in human history. Thirty years ago, after the shah had been driven into exile and the Islamic Republic was being established, the fertility rate was 6.5. By the turn of the century, it had dropped to 2.2. Today, at 1.7, it has collapsed to European levels. The implications are profound for the politics and power games of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, putting into doubt Iran's dreams of being the regional superpower and altering the tense dynamics between the Sunni and Shiite wings of Islam. Equally important are the implications for the economic future of Iran, which by mid century may have consumed all of its oil and will confront the challenge of organizing a society with few people of working age and many pensioners."

Europe, however, is rebounding slightly (quick! Someone tell Mark Steyn!), while in the developing world, with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa, birthrates are shrinking fast. As a result of the discrepancy between sub-Saharan Africa and everywhere else:

"By midcentury, sub-Saharan Africa is likely to be the demographic center of Islam, home to as many Muslims as Asia and to far more than inhabit the Middle East. The non-Arab Muslim countries of Africa -- Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Senegal -- constitute the one region of the Islamic world where birthrates remain high. In several of these countries, the average woman will have upward of five children in her lifetime. (...) By 2050, it is almost certain that most of the world's Christians will live in Africa."

Not surprisingly, the worst news comes out of Russia, which "is suffering a demographic decline on a scale that is normally associated with the effects of a major war." There's a lot more detail on Russia's horrifying demographics in this article, which describes the situation as amounting to "an ethnic self-cleansing":

"For the better part of a generation, Russia has suffered something akin to wartime population losses during year after year of peacetime political order. In the United Nations Development Program's annually tabulated "Human Development Index," which uses health as well as economic data to measure a country's living standards as they affect quality of life, Russia was number 73 out of 179. A country of virtually universal literacy and quite respectable general educational attainment, with a scientific cadre that mastered nuclear fission over half a century ago and launches orbital spacecraft and interplanetary probes today, finds itself ranked on this metric between Mauritius and Ecuador."

It's all very interesting. Enjoy!

Hilzoy 11:46 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Comments

Demographics is fascinating for those who bother to pay attention to it. Japan is already having major problems due to its' low birthrate, as will China down the road due to its' one child policy.

However, you have to pay attention to both birth rates and death rates to get an accurate picture of the future. Parts of sub-Saharan Africa may have very high birthrates, but due to the impact of war and famine, they also have very high death rates.

Somalia, for example, has the world's highest birth rate, at 6.6 children per woman, but also a very high infant mortality rate (11%), and one of the world's lowest life expectancies, at only 49.25 years.

Posted by: mfw13 on May 4, 2009 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

Strange that Iran has such declining birthrates, after so many of it's young men died in the Iraq/Iran war. And I reckon our wingnuts like Stein, Buchanan et al, have to make a new talking point about those vampiritic European socialists not being fruitful and multiplying.

Just so long as Americans keep making liberal babies, I'll be happy.

Posted by: Mr. Stuck on May 4, 2009 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

Doesn't this analysis assume the African birthrates will *stay* high? That's a big assumption.

Posted by: will on May 4, 2009 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to see more granular data for northern European, esp. France and England. I'd be willing to bet that the birth rate for white, native Europeans has not increased much, and that most of the increase is due to non-European immigrants in northern Europe, esp. from India, Pakistan, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey, and other Asian and African countries.

Which means Mark Steyn can still work himself up into a state of paranoid hysteria.

A huge part of Russia's population decline is due to horrible public health problems, and foremost among these is the mind-boggling extent of alcohol abuse in Russian culture. For all of our alcohol problems here in the U.S., Russian boozing is on a completely different and much more toxic level.

Posted by: bluestatedon on May 4, 2009 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

bluestatedon: from the article:

"One fact that gets lost among distractions such as the Times story is that the birthrates of Muslim women in Europeand around the worldhave been falling significantly for some time. Data on birthrates among different religious groups in Europe are scarce, but they point in a clear direction. Between 1990 and 2005, for example, the fertility rate in the Netherlands for Moroccan-born women fell from 4.9 to 2.9, and for Turkish- born women from 3.2 to 1.9. In 1970, Turkish- born women in Germany had on average two children more than German- born women. By 1996, the difference had fallen to one child, and it has now dropped to half that number.

These sharp reductions in fertility among Muslim immigrants reflect important cultural shifts, which include universal female education, rising living standards, the inculcation of local mores, and widespread availability of contraception. Broadly speaking, birthrates among immigrants tend to rise or fall to the local statistical norm within two generations."

France will be very hard to get data for, since last time I checked, they don't break down any demographic data by ethnicity, religion, etc., since they take the view that everyone is French, period.

Posted by: hilzoy on May 4, 2009 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

Evolutionary effects of birth control: Populations first exposed to birth control will see a decline in birthrate until those who don't want many kids start to die off. Assuming that desire for large families can be inherited genetically or culturally.

IMHO, we're unwittingly breeding out the ambitious, the wanderer, the driven artist, any other stereotype that has something else they're going to do instead of raising kids.

At least there's always kin selection!

Posted by: Boronx on May 4, 2009 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

The bottom line is that planet still has too many humans. Looks like we're still headed for massive die-off, as well as taking a huge chunk of the non-human biosphere with us.

Posted by: Disputo on May 4, 2009 at 2:53 AM | PERMALINK

Are you saying the world's population will decline? Seems to me that is a very GOOD thing.

Posted by: Clem on May 4, 2009 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

Doesn't this analysis assume the African birthrates will *stay* high? That's a big assumption.

Of course. The whole reason Hilzoy finds the current report so surprising is because past assumptions made about birthrate trends didn't hold out.

Posted by: Disputo on May 4, 2009 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

Japan is already having major problems due to its' low birthrate, as will China down the road due to its' one child policy.--mfw13

Both Japan and China are grossly overpopulated. Ponzi schemes built on doubling up on population (such as we're foolishly doing in the U.S.) can only work for at most another generation, while running out of non-renewable natural resources is forever.

Japan has to import about 60% of its food, and we're probably already hit peak fish, peak air, peak water, peak oil, and perhaps even peak farmland worldwide. The U.S. hit domestic peak oil in the early '70s and has been at peak water in the southwest for decades. The handwriting is on the wall for those who can read it.

Do we all understand how to calculate population growth? I find many people think because China has a one child policy that the population is declining. In fact China has a healthy (or unhealthy) population growth rate:

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html#People

Population growth rate: 0.655% (2009 est.)

Posted by: Luther on May 4, 2009 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

This post does not mention that the drop in Iranian birth rates was the result of a serious birth control campaign. A couple getting married now has to have birth control counseling...all kinds of work was done. Iran won the UN Population (control..I've forgotten the exact name of it) award some years back and is very proud of it. I gave a speech at a conference on water and climate change in Oman last fall and mentioned this. The one Iranian woman attending just beamed.

Posted by: christine on May 4, 2009 at 5:03 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to see more granular data for northern European, esp. France and England. I'd be willing to bet that the birth rate for white, native Europeans has not increased much, and that most of the increase is due to non-European immigrants in northern Europe, esp. from India, Pakistan, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey, and other Asian and African countries.

This is mostly likely correct.

Which means Mark Steyn can still work himself up into a state of paranoid hysteria.

Yes, people like yourself can still sneer and ignor the whole topic.

It's interesting that lefty blogs won't even talk about these issues until there some factoid shows up that suggests it's not going to be a problem. It's an emulation of Christian "blind faith" ... except that it's blind faith in their notion of progress.

Posted by: zywotkowitz on May 4, 2009 at 5:25 AM | PERMALINK

France instituted a comprehensive set of incentives for raising children, and the resulting bounce in fertility rates appears to be very broad. There is no reason to believe that it is exempt from the same cultural trends that are occurring in the Netherlands and Germany.

They're not looking for runaway growth; they want a stable population. Compare this with nations like Italy - on course to shrink dramatically. Basically - if you value children then you can work to soften the numerous economic disadvantages related to having them.

Posted by: Marc on May 4, 2009 at 7:14 AM | PERMALINK

Basically - if you value children then you can work to soften the numerous economic disadvantages related to having them.

I guess I don't understand that. The planet is overpopulated, period. If it weren't, there wouldn't be genetically modified food, which is horrible stuff, because we could feed people without it.

If it weren't, there wouldn't be global warming from huge human populations.

Until many billions of folks die off (assuming they do), having children is basically selfish-- you want to perpetuate yourself on a planet where there are too many people, too few resources, and we're killing off ecosystems.

It's not like having a child is some economic issue, only, at all.

Posted by: Clem on May 4, 2009 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

A declining population is not a bad thing. Yes, I understand that Japan and China face demographics problems if the number of elderly exceeds the number of young workers, but that's a problem that is manageable through increased worker productivity. In contrast, overpopulation is not manageable. It will eventually eat up all the resources of the planet, destroy the ecosystem, and impoverish everyone.

Think about the effort involved in trying to reduce global warming, deforestation, pollution, etc. Perhaps with conservation efforts, more use of renewable energy, etc. we can reduce the per-capita consumption of resources by one third. But if the population doubles, then all the gains are lost.

Even if the population of the Earth remains constant at 6 billion (or whatever it is today), many of those billions are now living in extreme poverty, consuming a tiny fraction of the resources used by those in the developed countries. If their standard of living is to increase to be on a par with those of Americans or Europeans, they will end up doubling or tripling their resource consumption even if their populations remain constant.

The only solution to environmental problems worldwide is to have a stable worldwide population, and I believe that it should be much less than the population today.

(I suppose I should add that it is possible that some miraculous technology will give us extra time. For example, cold fusion, or solar power satellites or colonies in space. We shouldn't depend on miracles, though.)

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on May 4, 2009 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

The data pulled out by Hilzoy suggests that Northern European Muslims are in fact doing something that runs counter to one of the primary sources of concern, that there is no assimilation occuring among Muslims.

Posted by: bluestatedon on May 4, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Populations (and economic systems) cannot expand indefinetly on a planet with fixed resources.

What's so damm difficult about a 2 child family?
What's so damm difficult about a sustainable economy?

Posted by: Buford on May 4, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

"Until many billions of folks die off (assuming they do), having children is basically selfish-- "

Maybe, but then the future will belong to the selfish.

"It's not like having a child is some economic issue, only, at all."

No, but it's not like having a child is only an economic negative, either. Raising a kid can be a worthwhile investment that repays big.

Posted by: Boronx on May 4, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

In Europe, countries with family-friendlier policies, like Finland, have higher birthrates than countries like Italy which don't have those policies. This difference isn't caused by the birthrates of immigrants, but the population as a whole.

Posted by: American Citizen on May 4, 2009 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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