The Problem of Soaring World Population

 

As I remind readers from time to time, this blog is focused on the fiscal and economic problems of the U.S. Our biggest fiscal problem is not having enough tax revenue to pay our bills.  Our biggest economic problem is a stagnant economy which leaves too many people unemployed or underemployed.
My last three post have been on the subject of climate change. This is a worldwide problem which has a huge effect on the U.S.  There’s going to be a cost in cutting way back on carbon emissions.  But there will soon be a much greater cost if we don’t cut back and therefore suffer the growing adverse environmental effects.
Now there is another looming problem.  The journal Science has just published the article “World population stabilization unlikely this century,” reporting that world population, now 7.2 billion, is likely to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 and 10.9 billion by 2100.  Much of the increase will take place in Africa due to higher fertility rates because of a recent slowdown in the pace of fertility decline.
CaptureThe implications of a growing world population are huge:

  • First of all, it will add even more stress to an environment which is already being increasingly stressed by global warming.
  • Secondly, it will aggravate a slowdown in middle-income wage growth throughout the developed world. This is very evident in the above chart. What is happening is that the force of globalization is shifting lower skilled work to lower paid workers in the developing world. A larger population in the developing world will simply exacerbate this trend.

The noted economist, Tyler Cowen, has a different perspective on this problem, “A Strategy for Rich Countries: Absorb More Immigrants,” in today’s New York Times.  But Mr. Cowen’s approach is untenable for the long run.  The idea that you can offset an increase in the elderly population with an even bigger increase in the younger population will lead to an ever-growing overall population.
What then is the answer to over-population?  It is either more birth control or less sex.  Take your pick!

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