zero population growth

Is the goal of trying to reach zero population growth a worthy one?

Every 20 minutes, the world adds another 3,500 human lives but loses one or more entire species of animal or plant life-- at least 27,000 species per year. (Source: And half of the world’s population is under the age of 25. (Source:

However, the growth rate in the U.S. and most of western Europe are below replacement levels. Bulgaria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Romania and Spain have a rate of only 1.2 children per woman, and other countries, such as Japan, are only slightly higher.

So, should our effort to control population growth be centered in countries where the population growth is really high (like the United Arab Emirates with an annual average growth rate of 5.3)?

Or should an attempt be made to reduce the population growth in countries like the U.S., France and Russia? Even if their population isn’t currently growing, a reduction in those countries would still lessen the number of overall people in the world.

Should the government take any steps to lessen the birth rate? How about giving tax deductions for the first 2 children, then none for any subsequent children.
There is a dilemma of having too many people to sustain the planet vs. the rights of the individual to have as large a family as they choose.

P.S. Just as full disclosure, I have 3 children and am planning to have another.

In that case, population control should start at your house! :smiley:

Seriously,…I think population control needs to be targetted at nations where population growth is highest. In many of these countries, big families continue to be an economic necessity. The only way to discourage this is to offer economic incentives for smaller families, and economic penalities for larger families.

Or, if you don’t want to micromanage family size through artificial incentive structures that are likely to be extremely unpopular in the countries where they are introduced…

You could work to raise the standard of living by increasing industrialization in developing countries. Which is something that can be shown to be correlated to birth rates. You could support initiatives to bring better reproductive health education and family planning services (gasp! birth control) to these countries. In short, making large families uneconomical will cause the cultural and religious justifications for them to fade.

Some of the countries with the biggest populations (China, India) are not exactly lacking for industry. I suspect you are referring to increasing some measurement of “per capita” to GNP ratio, or somesuch thing. I am not sure that our suggestions are incompatible…although I think yours was more passive, mine more active. I support your idea to introduce family planning, although I think you will find this to be “unpopular” among some segments of the populations you address, at least initially. I still think some government mandated initiatives will be necessary, popular or not…who says everything the government does has to be popular. Look at income tax.

In 1994, the United Nations Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo, pointed out some very interesting things which are no doubt heatedly debated even today. I’m not well acquainted with the facts, however, and don’t wish to debate them myself. I offer it for consideration.

If I may be allowed a sweeping generalization, I recall that the conferees noted that population growth is often highest in the very areas where women are treated the worst, and often lowest in areas where women were accorded the same or similar rights as their male counterparts.

I suspect that there are a number of factors behind that theory. Treating women equally effectively doubles the size of a nation’s labor pool, for example.

Anyway, it struck this bleeding heart as a beautifully dove-tailed solution to two serious problems. I want to believe it would work.

  1. Neither India nor China are typically considered “industrialized” in the field of world economic development, at least in the sense of the word economists use.

  2. The term is simply “per capita GNP” (actually, GDP is used more frequently as a measurement than GNP). “Per capita” essentially means “per person” and therefore ratio is implied.

  3. Increasing per capita GDP, strictly speaking, means nothing. Ultimately, the point is to increase the marginal real productivity of labor. The theory is that high birthrates are partially a result of the fact that it takes a lot of people to produce X amount of goods or services. If each person can produce more, then fewer are necessary for any given household to produce (and then trade) X amount of stuff. Households have less need to have large families to produce enough to subsist on.

India’s population growth isn’t likely to decrease anytime soon. If only because no one in power is really interested.

India’s growth rate is already in decline (and moreso in the more technologically advanced southern region than up along the Ganges).

The decrease may not be enough to meet certain goals, but it is occurring without any serious intervention by the government.

Ooops. I tappears that the government has been making some efforts–,ostly in the way of public information campaigns:
India Population Growth

Note that the the 1.8% figure of 1990-1994 is higher than the 1.71% estimated for 1998 which is higher than the 1.68% estimated for 1999.

Sofaking has the answer…
Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a part of the UN commission, and he wrote an concise article (New Yorker?) stressing the importance of educating women. He gave statistics and birthrates for Mexico,Pakistan,etc

This is truly a WAG but it seems to me that countries that have something of a social safety net, i.e. where people have a reasonable expectation of food a shelter after the age where they can “work” for a living have less pressure to have so many children that between them all you can be supported in your old age. It is not a coincidence that countries with such a safety net are generally also the countries where the availability of medical technology and social stability help insure that any child born will have a very good chance of living to become a productive unit of production, thereby lessening the pressure to have “extra” children to ensure against death due to disease and war.

The United State’s population is CERTAINLY growing, and rapidly. This is almost entirely due to immigration, not natural increase.

The census Bureau’s Low-Middle-High-No Immigration
2003 predictions from 2000
L - 280,624,000
M- 282-798,000
H- 285,422,000
compared to the April 2000 census:
CS- 281,422,000
compared to the Pop Clock 2/20/2003
PC- 290,302,000

So it appears US population is currently growing even faster than the high series estimation. I sincerely hope that I am misinterpreting things, or that the difference is due to some mistake made somewhere!

But, which population series we follow will make a HUGE difference by 2100:
L- 282,706,000 pop max 2041@314,710,000
M- 570,954,000 pop still growing in 2100
H- 1,182,390,000 pop still growing in 2100
N/I- 377,444,000 pop still growing in 2100

Also, remember that Americans have a much, much larger impact on the earth than most of the world’s population. One billion American’s in less than a 100 years sounds like a nightmare, unless some pretty drastic changes are made. Even if that many people can be supported it sounds like a nightmare for me–I like open empty places, where I don’t see people everywhere I turn.

And, as long as the USA remains a better place to live than all those corrupt third world kleptocracies , people will want to move here. In short, population growth anywhere impacts populations everywhere. Personally, I’d like to see a trend toward less people over time.

oh, I forgot to add, what the difference in fertility rates is between the low and high models is – in the high model, births per woman increase slowly and in the low model, they decline slowly, such that by about 2100, the difference is about one child per woman.

I took a class on this in College. Sorry no cites. You’ll just have to take my word for it. I’m sure some of you won’t. But that’s okay. That’s what this forum is for.

I was told that every society that goes through an industrial revolution goes through a huge population upheaval. We Americans went through that at the end of the last century. The Chinese and Indians are going through it now. They’re population is supposed to “normalize” after a couple 2 or 3 generations.

Bit of a tangent: these statistics about how many species go extinct every year (usually brought up by environmentalists trying to convince humans how evil we are) are a bit misleading, as I understand it. 27 000 species didn’t go extinct this year, or last year or the year before it. That number is an average, which includes periods of mass extinction, where a vast number of species go extinct over a short amount of time (like when the meteor hit the earth, 64 million years ago, killing off not only virtually every dinosaur, but a boggling number of ancient plants). Humans in comparison have forced a relatively small number of animals into extinction.

Not true; Americans would be growing slowly without immigration. With it, the populaton keeps rolling.

What would the benefits of zero population growth be?

To what extent is the health of our economy dependent on continued population growth (either by native births or by immigration)? Can the economy remain healthy with a stable (or declining) population? How would that effect housing markets, real estate prices, etc.? Would a declining population trigger a deflationary spiral (as supplies exceed demands in various sectors)?

From a personal perspective, the planet would be a more pleasant place if we could preserve some open spaces and didn’t cram humans into every available nook. But can we achieve the goal of limiting population growth without catastrophic economic consequences?

Just wondering out loud.

affect, I meant


This site talks about the problems a declining population has. They are specifically dealing with Singapore, but the problems are the same everywhere:

"One of the most disturbing results of the reduced fertility is that of an increase in dependency ratio. There will be around 800,000 elderly by 2030, 17.5% more than what we have now. The burden of supporting the elderly will be on a smaller working population… Moreover, the ageing population will place a strain on government resources as demand for healthcare, social welfare, and nursing increases. This represents a huge opportunity cost as the resources could be used for a higher quality education, increased leisure areas, etc.

In addition, the work force will be made up of a greater proportion of old people. This is bad for an economy that relies heavily on human resources. The productivity of an aged is lower than that of a youngster. Moreover, older people are less receptive to new ideas and technology changes. They will have to be re-trained since their obsolete skills are no longer relevant in the new economy. Singapore has to have a young and vibrant workforce that is able to compete against other nations. An aged workforce will result in loss of competitiveness in the global market…

Furthermore, the declining population will also lead to insecurity as people lose confidence in the ability of the armed forces to defend the nation. There will be a shortage of young man being conscripted each year and the pool of reservists available also becomes smaller. These will undoubtedly weaken the armed forces, making Singapore more vulnerable to attacks by ambitious nations…"