Friday, December 29, 2006

Nigeria Population Census Results

by Edward Hugh


Well I don't have a lot to say about the details of the findings at this point (since among other things Thomas may want to say something), but as he suggested in this post, the Nigerian census results are now complete and published:

Nigeria's population is growing at an annual rate of 3.2 percent and stands at just over 140 million, a 63 percent increase in 15 years, population commission chairman Samu'ila Mukama has said.

"The total number of the Nigerian population is 140,003,542," Mukama announced in presenting the provisional results of the March 2006 census to President Olusegun Obasanjo in the federal capital Abuja on Friday.


I think it is just worth pausing to reflect on this one second: the population has increased by 63% in 15 years, or by a little over 4% per annum. This is massive (even allowing for some undercount last time) and shows clearly what an important problem continuing high fertility is.It is far from clear what is going to happen to Nigeria during the next few years, but one thing is sure, it won't be serious economic growth and development, however good the policy mix that is deployed (and the political instability that is almost inevitable makes good policy hard to expect). The preponderance of children will ensure that.

To try and understand in simple laymens terms why this is, take a look at this graph for Indian savings since 1970, and observe the steady secular rise.











India's growth suddenly took off around 2,000, and India may well now be about to move over from a middle class consumption driven growth process, to an investment lead one thanks precisely to the important increase in internal saving, an increase which has been made possible by the reduced numbers of chidlren who have been being born in most Indian states.

At the end of the day, one big chunk of growth isn't such a mystery after all: it's the fertility silly.

So we have not one, but TWO population problems on the planet at the moment. The elderly population one in the developed world, and the excessively young population one in the yet-to-develop world (the developing world is, of course, in transition from being excessively young to being elderly, and it is precisely at this point that you get all that sizzling economic growth).

The think is both of these problems are simply crying out for policy solutions to seriously address them, but in neither case does the offer meet the need.

42 comments:

S.M. Stirling said...

Savings and investment as a percentage of GDP aren't an infallible guide to economic growth. Eg., the US has a rather low rate of investment, but a rather high rate of growth.

Increased savings are a quantitative approach to growth and with enough savings you can get growth even if the qualitative side of things is neglected -- witness the USSR.

But eventually you run into a wall.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post, indeed I enjoy this whole blog because it has a different perspective and has certainly influenced my own writing this year.

I take the force of S M Strling's comments on the impact of the savings ratio. However, the discussion left me wondering about the effects of demographic shifts on other variables including productivity.

Earlier posts pointed to the problem Germany faced, including emigration by the young. I checked this one with a German colleague. She agreed, but also pointed to the nature of the structural change process in Germany as a hidden variable in reducing job opportunities for the young.

If you look at the other end of the spectrum, the Nigerian case, it seems to me another set of variables comes into play affecting the composition of spend.

During the 1950s Australia had mass migration, high birth rates and low productivity growth. So Australia slipped in the standard of living league table. Then, later, productivity growth accelerated. This is usually attributed to structural change. But I wonder.

Take spend on education as an example. This was high during the fities as we struggled to provide basic facilities.

Education spend as a proportion of GDP did not fall as the birth rate slowed. Instead,we increased the depth of education with more children staying at school to year 12, more going to university.

This increase in the depth of education presumably had at least some positive effect on improved productivity as the better educated kids flowed through into the workforce.

S.M. Stirling said...

Another point is that it's hard to compare countries at different points on the development spectrum.

When an underdeveloped country starts major sectoral shifts -- taking people off farms and putting them into factories and offices -- there's a giant one-off gain that may last for a couple of generations. This is usually accompanied by very high investment ratios.

Even inefficient factories and offices are likely to be much more productive than tiny quasi-subsistence farms.

China and India are in this stage now, with China rather further along. China redeployed over 300 million people out of agriculture in the last 15 years.

Once you've completed this stage, though, you get to the hard part -- merely throwing labor and capital at things runs into a diminishing rate of return and you have to start increasing total factor productivity to grow.

To take an extreme case, that's what happened to the USSR in the 1970's. Up until then their growth rate had been quite impressive and many people were predicting that they'd become the world's largest economy before the end of the century.

Things didn't turn out that way... 8-).

Edward said...

Hi you two. Thanks for the comments.

To start I would just like to make one simple point. It was Socrates, wasn't it, who drew our attention to the fact that perhaps we best demonstrate our intellectual prowess by recognizing what we don't know. Well I think the particular problem set that we are all struggling with at the moment is one of the best examples you can find for the validity of this insight.

Many of the phenomena that we are now starting to get to grips with are, if not exactly new, becoming much clearer, and for the first time ever.

So we aren't exactly going to get everything right at the first pass.

Sterling:

"Savings and investment as a percentage of GDP aren't an infallible guide to economic growth."

Certainly, to get economic growth working you obviously need more ingredients, not least among these good, and well-functioning, institutions. But having savings in greater supply does help, since they do oil the machine, and they are more available and possible in some situations rather than others, so we need to try and understand how these situations arise, and if they don't arise, why they don't.

Nigeria and India are simply good cases in point here. Nigeria has a very bleak immediate future, despite (or maybe even in part because of, if we look for a moment at geopolitical factors) significant oil resources (and also when we take into account the fact that high fertility societies tend to have low human capital levels, and a lop-sided dependence on the primary sector)

India, on the other hand, seems to be facing unprecedented growth opportunities, and this, in part, is due to the steadily growing internal savings environment.

FDI will be an important part of the story in India, but only as a catalyst, facilitating things like technology transfer, the big picture is that the savings (as in the case of China) are increasingly available internally, thus decreasing the danger of sudden capital outflows, and the instability of high levels of foreign debt (the IMF in the 1990s story). Now why is this, that is the question?

"with enough savings you can get growth even if the qualitative side of things is neglected -- witness the USSR."

Oh, I absolutely agree. You clearly need openness and globalisation, and, as we are slowly beginning to discern, the great tragedy of Russia is that the opportunity came and was missed.

"Another point is that it's hard to compare countries at different points on the development spectrum."

Again I completely agree, there is a 'before', a 'now' and an 'after', this is why I think biology is a better source of analogies than physics for our thinking here. If you don't seize the 'now', basically you are lost.

"Once you've completed this stage, though, you get to the hard part -- merely throwing labor and capital at things runs into a diminishing rate of return and you have to start increasing total factor productivity to grow."

Yes, but once you get to the 'after' moment there are real issues about just how much you can raise the rate of TFP growth to offset the downside of an increasingly elderly population. This is the challenge some developed economies are facing now.

Jim

"She agreed, but also pointed to the nature of the structural change process in Germany as a hidden variable in reducing job opportunities for the young."

I'm not sure about this. It is another of the big areas of debate, and another one of the unknowns.

If you look into the situation carefully, you will find that many employers in the west and south of Germany are already complaining that they cannot find enough young, qualified labour. (In fact some part of the recent improvement in the unemployment situation is a product of larger older generations starting to leave the labour force, this is even clearer in Japan and Italy).

The situation of the over 50s is very different from the young people, however.

Now insofar as there is a continuing problem of youth unemployment two factors seem to be operating. In the first place technological changes (what they call in the US technology bias). Some of the young people who are finding it hard to find work are undoubtedly under-qualified, or perhaps under-qualified or unwilling to accept the global value that now goes with the less qualified work. So there is a problem in the education and motivation systems in communicating to these people that if they want work which is consistent with their aspirations they need to be better qualified.

Secondly there is the structural reform element you refer to. This normally seems to relate to the difficulty young qualified people under 28/29 experience in finding long-term and remunerative contracts which they consider to be commensurate with their skill level.

This is a curious situation, and at present I find no easy answer to this, since in principle I can't see how it relates to lack of flexibility in the labour markets, since these markets seem to be, if anything, 'overflexibilised' in Germany if the percentage and volume of temporary contracts is anything to go by. (This is, btw, very different from France, or so it seems, but then again France has much larger younger generations, so there are 'confounds' here).

I find it curious how young people of 24/25 in the US or Canada seem to be able to get more remunerative jobs at a much earlier age. Maybe there is a problem at the level of enterprise culture here with companies in Europe not being so willing to give responsibility at younger ages. I'm really not sure. But the problem exists.

"This increase in the depth of education presumably had at least some positive effect on improved productivity as the better educated kids flowed through into the workforce."

Definitely, I think you are moving into the right ballpark here.

"If you look at the other end of the spectrum, the Nigerian case, it seems to me another set of variables comes into play affecting the composition of spend."

Again yes, the move from quantity to quality is another important part of the story (which is why I find it so hard to contemplate any big reversal in the fertility decline). The structural reforms argument, insofar as it only looks at one component and tends to completely ignore the demographic one is missing one very big part of the picture here.

Edward said...

Jim,

Claus (whose blog is a good daily read in any event) had a post on structural reforms and demography here, but if you rummage around a bit you will doubtless find a lot more that may interest you.

Colin Reid said...

"Some of the young people who are finding it hard to find work are undoubtedly under-qualified, or perhaps under-qualified or unwilling to accept the global value that now goes with the less qualified work."

Rather than suffering from a simple dearth of skills, Germany seems to me to be a classic illustration of how having lots of education isn't enough on its own. IIRC, Germans spend more years in education than any other national group, and until recently they were generously subsidised through several years of university, so I would have thought per capita education spending is already pretty high (certainly higher than the UK, say.) This is backed up by a strongly pro-education culture, though a cynic might say that this represents runaway economic signalling rather than a genuine respect for knowledge.

So how have these people ended up under-qualified? Perhaps the skills developed by a traditional education (both academic and vocational) aren't so useful after all; more plausibly, some useful skills are being developed but German education is deficient in some critical areas, leaving employers disappointed at the performance of their supposedly highly-qualified employees. Then of course there's the always-popular cynical theory, that German kids are too lazy to learn properly, but have got increasingly good at playing the system, resulting in good grades on paper but without actually having the wider aptitude those grades are supposed to represent.


"When an underdeveloped country starts major sectoral shifts -- taking people off farms and putting them into factories and offices -- there's a giant one-off gain that may last for a couple of generations."

Somewhere like Nigeria doesn't even need to take people off the land to make progress. Thanks to demographic pressures, the cities (especially Lagos) already have a huge population of unemployed residents, desperate for any job they can get. You'd think that this would make Lagos especially a perfect place for low-skill factories, as they could be both built and manned by all that ultra-cheap labour, and its coastal location overcomes many of the goods transport problems that can cripple inland cities. While this is happening, it's clearly not happening fast enough to keep up with population growth. The oil industry in the Niger Delta ought to be a big source of money to finance investment, but it's a classic example of a region 'cursed by oil' in almost every possible way, a curse that has afflicted the whole country in the past thanks to kleptocratic regimes. In the interior of the country, economic development is even more inadequate. I suspect the problem is a combination of lack of potential entrepreneurs and managers (the Nigerian elite are content with other ways of getting richer, eg through oil, corruption or emigration), trade barriers (does Nigeria have preferential access to the EU?) and institutional obstacles (including rampant corruption).

On the fertility issue, India and China forced their fertility downwards by population control policies. It's hard to say how much of the reduction in fertility was down to these policies and how much for other reasons, but in any case it's simply not an option for Nigeria. Many conservative religious leaders in the North are already paranoid about population control (eg Kano state blocked polio immunisation for a period in 2003, after Muslim clerics suspected that the vaccines were designed to reduce fertility), so any attempt at reducing fertility, however gentle, could provoke a massive 'allergic reaction'.

The upshot of Nigeria's population boom combined with its economic problems is that real GDP per capita is about a *quarter* of what it was 30 years ago. In per capita terms, the country hasn't just failed to move forward, it's gone backwards at high speed. The current government is making the right economic noises a lot more than previous military regimes, but given the rate at which change has to happen, it'll take a Herculean effort to start lifting Nigerians out of poverty in a big way.

Edward said...

Hi Colin,

Leaving aside for someone else the question of Germany, you raise a couple of very important points about Nigeria.

"Thanks to demographic pressures, the cities (especially Lagos) already have a huge population of unemployed residents, desperate for any job they can get. You'd think that this would make Lagos especially a perfect place for low-skill factories, as they could be both built and manned by all that ultra-cheap labour, and its coastal location overcomes many of the goods transport problems that can cripple inland cities."

This is exactly it, perfect, land, cheap labour etc so why doesn't it happen?

To me it seems intuitively obvious that societies with very high fertility rates are inherently internally unstable, and this instability makes what may appear to be a very attractive environment not so attractive.

In this sense the theory of the demographic transition is intimately connected with the theory of social modernisation. It seems to be so obvious that it has to be like this, yet few seem willing to recognise the implications.

One other point that has been raised here by people who have thought about the problem is life expectancy and risk behaviour. There seems to be some kind of poverty trap, whereby short life expectancy feeds back on itself by producing a predominance of risky forms of behaviour among young people. The phenomenon of child soldiers is one which directly comes to mind, but there are clearly others.

Add to this all the factors which you mention about corruption etc etc which seem endemic in such an environment, and you have the perfect recipe for something which goes nowhere and only feeds on itself.

I mean can anybody name any society anywhere with such high fertility which is stable? I don't doubt that there might be one somewhere, but it is difficult to find.

If we look at Latin America again I feel the connection is pretty clear. Societies which still have falling but comparatively higher fertility - Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela - are notably politically less stable than those which are approaching replacement level - Brazil, Argentina, Chile.

Really someone, somewhere needs to work all this out much more systematically at the theoretical level. It is certainly something that someone like Jeremy Sachs seems to totally ignore.

"On the fertility issue, India and China forced their fertility downwards by population control policies."

Yep, but I think there are important differences between India and China here, and the way China has done this may well be about to cause a pretty serious future problem. One state in the south of India - Kerala, home to the famous Kerala development model - seems to have also made a mess of things, since they are approaching low fertility before they have had economic development, and are not one of the big current Indian growth areas. Indeed many Indian states are now TARGETING fertility levels of 1.5tfr as part of their development plans. So we move rapidly from one extreme to the other.

Much of the north of India still has higher fertility (although dropping fast) so it may be possible for India to 'equilibrate', but only through massive internal migration which is what many people are worried about right now, since a trickle may become a river, and this will cause large humanitarian issues in the urban areas which are completely unprepared, but I don't see any other way out really, since you still have 70% of the Indian population depending on an agricultural sector that only constitutes 20% of GDP and falling (while the population pressure on that percentage continues to rise).

"but in any case it's simply not an option for Nigeria. Many conservative religious leaders in the North are already paranoid about population control..."

If you are right here, and I fear you are - even the linked article mentions how there are many groups who want to increase their numbers to increase their claim on resources, and this is just another example of how an excessive dependence on primary sectors can be destabilising - then it looks like Nigeria is heading towards a perfectly foreseeable disaster, and at a pretty hefty pace.

But it isn't a question of forcing anything, if only the agencies and voices with influence were approaching this with an eye on fertility as THE big problem, at least that would be a step forward. Then it might be possible to deploy more subtle policies.

"The upshot of Nigeria's population boom combined with its economic problems is that real GDP per capita is about a *quarter* of what it was 30 years ago."

This is the whole point, and the rate of population growth probably continues to outstrip GDP growth. So what we can expect is the country to disintegrate, and in a not particularly pleasant way. Talk about chronicles of death foretold.

S.M. Stirling said...

Parts of Nigeria would be much better off if the country had broken up as it nearly did in the 60's and 70's.

The other parts wouldn't be much worse off than they are now.

As it is, there are simply too many competing groups to get reasonable government in any portion.

I suspect Nigeria will see population reduction in the next generation -- but in a way much more unpleasant than Japan's.

joeimp said...

https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/print/ni.html

Nigeria's GDP is growing FASTER than its population.

Nigeria has it all together if you ask me.

From a Darwinian perspective, its policies have created an environment that leads to a an expanding family tree, as opposed to the narrowing one we have in the West.

From an economic perspective, they are growing faster than every Western Nation. And GDP growth is a proxy for human technological advancement.

Edward, I find it difficult to comprehend a criticism of Nigeria's policies based on these numbers.

Not to accuse anyone of being elitist, but it is convenient for some people to say that a nation has an inferior system because it is different than the system under which they live themsselves.

I feel an objective assessment would reveal that it is the West which has laid the foundation for its demise. The antinatalist policies of teh 60s, 70s, and 80s, that were implemented partially in response to the "overpopulation" hysteria, are having a profoundly negative impact on the long-term security of the West.

Edward said...

Joe,

"Not to accuse anyone of being elitist"

Don't worry Joe, this would be the least of the things I have been accused of, and I understand your comments in the spirit with which you make them.

"Edward, I find it difficult to comprehend a criticism of Nigeria's policies based on these numbers."

We'll get to the numbers in a minute, but what I want to make clear at this point is that I am *not* criticising policies, but simply saying that any policy package that doesn't address the issue of high fertility at its core won't work in high fertility societies, simply because the political instability which is associated with these levels of fertility makes it virtually impossible for the policies to be maintained over time.

My objective here is not to score points, but this would be the big thing about Iraq really, it should have been obvious from the start that what was being projected was impossible given the fertility rates.

"Nigeria's GDP is growing FASTER than its population."

Look, the last thing I would want to present myself as being is an expert on the Nigerian economy, so I could be wrong, and I always accept this possibility, but the number you point to is a very high rate (6.9%) and this is for one year (2005, and it is an estimate), and we all know that 2005 was a very good year for oil, on which a significant part of the Nigerian economy depends.

At the same time we are also all aware of the political strains which this situation has been producing, since there have been various oil price spikes simply produced by the political instability which has accompanied these high prices, and the disintegration strains which are being imposed. So I think we all need to be very careful here.

At the same time the population growth rate on the same link is an estimate (2.38%) and again one of the points of this post is that the Nigerian population may well have been growing much faster than people imagined (certainly the census number is in the very high end of the range which Thomas mentioned in his early post, and I would like to see some interpretation - perhaps from Thomas who is our statistician - of the new data so we could be clearer on just what the data actually mean since there are such high levels of insecurity about both the current numbers and those of the previous census.

However, as regard the 1990s, here is one link:

"Between 1994 and 1998, real GDP grew steadily from MI 01.0 billion to M113.0 billion. The annual growth rates were 1.3 per cent in 1994, 2.2 per cent in 1995, 3.3 per cent in 1996, 3.8 per cent in 1997 and 2.4 per cent in 1998. Given the esti mated population growth rate of 2.83 per cent, the GDP growth rate of 2.4 per cent in 1998 implied that the average Nigerian citizen was worse off in terms of well-being than in 1997."

And for 2003-2007 here is another:

"Economic growth in Nigeria was dismal throughout much of the 1990s. However, the return of democracy in 1999 has begun to boost economic recovery and growth.

Indeed, in the last two years, (2000 and 2001) real gross domestic product (real GDP) has increased faster than at anytime since 1991, when it went up by 4.7 percent. In 2000 and 2001, real GDP rose 3.83 percent and 4.21 percent respectively. Averaged over the period from 1992 to 1998, real GDP grew just 2.6 percent, well below the rate of population growth of nearly 2.8 percent."

Now this last link is interesting, since it is essentially a government document about policy, and to make things clear, my point of view is not that there is anything wrong with most of these policies, but it is what the policies are silent on that is my beef. There is no mention in the health section on fertility and birth control programmes (this is NOT the same as enforced fertility reduction, as practiced for eg in Brazil and Mexico with non-consented tube-tying, which is obviously barbaric, or forced abortions for Tibetans) but this topic is not given any kind of importance or priority (and indeed we learn from the census analysis that some groups are trying to actively boost their population to get more say over resources (this is the sort of issue that leads my friend in Venezuela to call oil the devils excrement), nor is there any mention of education in the document, and female education programmes are quite simply an indirect form of birth control, and a much more civilised form of course. Nor is their talk of female empowerment and gender opportunity, which are again central issues (of course, you will notice I simply don't buy the patriarchal argument at all).

Anyway the bottom line is that there is an improved performance post 2000, and this is obviously to be welcomed, but it does seem to be neck and necking it with the growth of population, and if there is a problem in the oil sector, then watch out, this is what I think.

It is a bit like Russia in reverse (oil driven growth, but in the Russian case the population is on the point of decline, in neither case is the thing sustainable as is).


"The antinatalist policies of teh 60s, 70s, and 80s, that were implemented partially in response to the "overpopulation" hysteria, are having a profoundly negative impact on the long-term security of the West."

Again look, at the end of the day I think the root of our differences in this area are to do with different appreciations of why there is lowest low fertility in the first place. I think the economic (investment theory, quality for quantity, Becker-type) argument is the key, and then behavioural copying in the lower income groups, who tend to raise their first birth ages in tandem, becoming the cherry on the cake. I don't think it has anything to do with anti-natalism, in the same way I don't think anything woeful comes from pro-natalism in another context, what we need is the right policy, in the right place at the right time here.

All in all we are facing the same issue in both Japan and Nigeria, mainstream economic thinking hasn't woken up to the importance of demographic dynamics.

Colin Reid said...

"To me it seems intuitively obvious that societies with very high fertility rates are inherently internally unstable, and this instability makes what may appear to be a very attractive environment not so attractive."

England's population nearly quadrupled during the late 18th and 19th centuries, and yet it was remarkably well-governed by the standards of the 19th-century world (the political landscape was transformed, but in stages, without a revolution and virtually without bloodshed). In the same period, the French fertility rate was amongst the lowest in the world, but France couldn't create a stable form of government, suffering a whole slew of major political upheavals (1789, all through the 1790s, 1814, 1830, 1848, 1852, 1870). So demographics can't be the be-all and end-all here. Anglospherists will say that some exceptional and innate aspect of English culture promotes political stability, but then the level of political turmoil in 15th-, 16th- and 17th-century England suggests otherwise.

"If we look at Latin America again I feel the connection is pretty clear. Societies which still have falling but comparatively higher fertility - Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela - are notably politically less stable than those which are approaching replacement level - Brazil, Argentina, Chile."

Again, I'm not sure it's so clear-cut if you look at the history. Bolivia has been notoriously unstable for most of its history, ('nearly 200 coups and counter-coups since 1825' according to the CIA factbook, which must be some kind of record), and Venezuela and Ecuador also have somewhat turbulent histories. On the other side, Chile has had a rather successful political history by South American standards (though not without its problems by any means). But has there been a huge disparity in age structure over the whole post-colonial period, or is it more recent? I think in this case the fertility gap has been an effect of the economic/political development gap more often than a cause. As for the others, as far as I know they've all had more or less their fair share of instability since the 1820s, and I doubt you'll see such a clear correlation between demographics and stability over this period if you look at the continent as a whole.

However, I do agree that a large population of young people (especially unmarried males in their teens and 20s) is a substantial risk factor, as they are almost invariably more inclined than others to react to problems in a violent or revolutionary fashion if they have the political resources to do so. I fear there's a special circle of developmental hell reserved for the most extreme 'patriarchies', those places which combine very high fertility with a culture that disempowers women and encourages female infanticide.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the link, Edward. Just to flesh out the Australian figures a little.

In 1945 the country's population was just over 7 million. Since then the country has brought in almost six million migrants, a large majority of these in the fifties and sixties, also the period of the baby boom before the sharp decline in the birth rate from 1961. So the population grew from 7m to 9m (1959), 10.7m (1961),12.2m (1968).Today 0ver 20m.

So Australia is quite an interesting case study when it comes to teasing out some of the variables.

Edward said...

"England's population nearly quadrupled during the late 18th and 19th centuries,"

Colin, you do have a knack of asking difficult questions. Let's see if I can handle this one.

Now the first thing I want to say here is that we are not talking about societies in general across large swathes of historical time, but one very specific process in history, the demographic transition, and the rise of the modern growth based economy.

I mean I think it is important to screen out this kind of issue, since otherwise we get into the who thing about national cultures - or not even national ones, since we can go to times which precede the origin of nations, and then we can throw in Huntington, and old-fashioned single point mutation genetics, and the whole works, but all we would do is generate a lot of heat, and very little in the way of light.

Bacon had it that the way you put questions to nature pretty much conditioned the kind of answers you get, and I'm with him. I want to specify my questions pretty precisely, and not go off for a pleasant run through the thicket.

Also Popper pointed out that given Bacon's issue, we might like to think about the topic of testability, since by s defining our own questions we can get away with almost literal murder, and he suggested the idea of testability (or if you will falsifiability) and I pretty much go along with him here.

Which is why I am raising the point that Nigeria is in for a very hard time, I am convinced of this, and until the fertility comes down there will be no stable and sustained growth. I am saying that, and I am sticking by it. (Of course, as someone, maybe you, points out, there are feedback mechanisms, and to some extent growth does help bring down fertility, so at times it is hard to separate chicken from egg).

Also, in the Japan case, I am saying there will be no sustained escape from deflation over the immediate horizon (of course at some point Japan could simply go bankrupt, and then we could of course see rampant inflation or something, but I hope and believe that the moment for that isn't near at hand).

I am also challenging those who argue that the fertility/demography thing doesn't matter, to find me one single case of a society which has gotten through to a modern equilibrated growth regime without passing through the transition. That should count for something shouldn't it?

Now for the UK.

Basically the UK was the first to go through the whole transition process, and of course there are always countries which are more stable and pacific than others.

When I say unstable here, I really mean things like the Luddites and the Chartists, the revolutions in Europe in 1848. In demographic transition terms, and movements out of agriculture into industry.

Obviously Nigeria is going through all of this in the early 21st century when the speed of the process and then tensions are naturally much greater.

Population increase in the uk was rapid (or very rapid if you will) but it still wasn't as fast as Nigeria is today. The UK population doubling time in the 19th century was around 50 years, while the current Nigerian one is about 25 years.

And of course the UK was in the middle of a technologically driven win-win transition to economic growth (which was not without its own kind of instability, obviously) and there was a little thing called the First World War, or had you forgotten about that?

The European societies and the US went through their transition comparatively slowly during the 19th century (perhaps it is stretching things a bit to talk about the DT in the US case, but still, this is what people tend to do), and they were pioneers, that is to say there was no-one blocking their path.

The UK was able to dig-up coal to sell abroad to pay to rent land in the US to feed the additional population. I think the whole dynamic was rather different, and then the additional population was either put to work in factories, or exported overseas either in the form of migration or colonial administration.

Essentially the boiler had a safety valve, one which Nigeria does not have.

Really you can't conceptualize the explosion in third world population in the second half of the twentieth century without contextualizing it in a situation where the developed word - with certain basic types of medicine and health knowledge - already exists.

The decline in child mortality was always a prelude to the transition, but in the European case it was then accompanied by a steady increase in life expectancy as living standards improved, and the improvement in life expectancy and the decline in fertility tend to march in step (which is why the child investment type theory seems to be so plausible).

The whole point about the third world situation in the second half of the 20th century is that they have had the decline in infant mortality without the increase in life expectancy and the accompanying decline in fertility, and this has remained in some sort of 'trap' or other for many years. Of course when the dam does finally break and the fertility decline comes they move forward almost without exception on to the comparatively higher growth path that leads to development.

So it is this sort of correlation which interests me.

"On the other side, Chile has had a rather successful political history by South American standards (though not without its problems by any means)."

Well Chile is itself an interesting case. Why did the arrival of Allende in the 1970s provoke the kind of instability that lead to the coup, and why does Bachelet now (and Lula for that matter) find it possible to convince the poor to wait, while in Bolivia, precisely we find Morales and his populism. It is the history of Latin America since WWII that interests me, and why there is such a big difference between 1970 and today in places like Brazil, Chile and Argentina, whilst in Ecuador and Bolivia we find precisely a very 1970s type problem.

(Another example of this critical moment in modernity would be the Spanish civil war in 1936. Or take Thailand now, why was the money all flooding out in 1998, and yet in 2006, and despite the fact that we have just had a military coup, and there has been lots of corruption, they are having trouble stopping the money coming in. What is the difference between Thailand and Nigeria? Well my advice is to start by looking at the fertility).

This has been a long comment, but you do ask some difficult questions, and at the end of the day they do go to the heart of the matter.

S.M. Stirling said...

Actually, the 18th/19th century boom in European populations was the result of increased fertility more than declining mortality. Recent studies have made this very clear.

Infant mortality rates didn't start declining until after 1890, and overall mortality not until the 1840-1860 period. Sweden had its last killing famine then, and there were substantial upticks in death rates all over as late as the 1840's.

The crucial difference was that the traditionally rather low central/northern/Western European birth-rates shot through the roof for about 150-200 years, due almost entirely to earlier and more general marriage.

Europeans traditionally limited fertility by delaying marriage or not getting married at all, depending on their economic circumstances. The very poor didn't marry, the middling orders married late, and wealthy people married early.

Marital fertility was "natural" -- a child every 18-24 months until menopause or other cause of infertility. But the age of marriage was late (typically mid-20's) and a substantial proportion of the population never married, which drove the TFR down to modest levels, considering the high mortality rates at all ages.

But even at their 1750-1850 peaks, western European TFR's were still well below the highest 20th-century rates for the Third World.

Before the big expansion they were well below that. Eg., in the late 17th century, England had a crude birth rate of about 27 per 1000 and 25% of women never reproduced at all.

(The population was falling in that period, by the way.)

Then in the 19th century the pattern was broken as people began to limit marital fertility as well as nuptiality. But that was a late development, except in France -- British birthrates didn't start to drop until the 1870's, which was more typical.

The recent worldwide drop in births seems to be associated with 'westernization' on a very fundamental level.

The age at marriage has been going up, for example, and the number of never-married people increasing, as well as and alongside reductions in desired family sizes and limitations of marital fertility.

Anonymous said...

joeimp: Thank you for the enlightened contribution. Paul Romer and co. have demonstrated, I think rather convincingly, that human capital is the only kind which really matters in the long-run. Fundamental to this theory is the assumption that one must have humans in order to create human capital.

Nigeria, if it provides mass primary and secondary education, is therefore blessed on the grandest scale, rather than cursed as the neo-Malthusians would have us believe.

In the long-run, say the year 2100, there will be virtually no more Danes, Spaniards, Argentines, Chileans, French, Russians, Japanese, Australians, Canadians, or Koreans, to name but a few. Fifty years after that, there will be very few Chinese, or Indians, or, quite possibly, Americans.

There will, however, be Nigerians, Somalis, Yemenis, Malawians and people from Chad. We who advocate control of fertility in Africa and parts of Latin America and the Middle East in order to create some sort of short-term boost to GDP per head aren't appropriately focused on the long-term view.

If you were Nigerian, or Malian, or Kenyan, would you honestly take the advice of some Swedish or Swiss fertility "expert" who insisted that you curb birth rates as the surest route to some sort of short-term development "fix"? Why would you, when it is so plainly obvious that such actions lead directly to the calamitous end we see in Europe and other parts today.

Sorry, it just makes no sense.

S.M. Stirling said...

"In the long-run, say the year 2100, there will be virtually no more Danes, Spaniards, Argentines, Chileans, French, Russians, Japanese, Australians, Canadians, or Koreans, to name but a few. There will, however, be Nigerians, Somalis, Yemenis, Malawians and people from Chad."

-- this is nonsense.

To begin with, low fertility does not mean zero fertility. There will be 30-35 million Germans born between now and 2050, for example. There will be hundreds of millions of Chinese born in the same period.

Secondly, Nigeria and the other countries you mention already have falling fertility rates and the fall will continue and accelerate.

If those countries successfully modernize and develop their resources the fall will accelerate still more.

Eg., Kenya has already dropped by 50% from the peaks of the 1960's.

But even -without- such development it will happen. Just a little more slowly. Zimbabwe has been going backwards on all measurable indicies of development but the fertility rate there is now down to about 3 (and the population is dropping).

Third, 'human capital' means educated, productive people. Diseased, malnourished, illiterate peasants are a liability, not an asset.

And educated, productive people don't have 7 or 10 children each. Getting them to have 2 each is a problem in most places.

So "human capital formation" and "high fertility rates" are mutually exclusive terms.

You can have replacement level fertility and high rates of human capital formation (the US does) but not much more.

Anonymous said...

stirling:

There are 80 million Germans today. If they will produce only 30 million replacements in the next 40 years, that's not good. By 2100, how many will be left, 10 or 15 million? I would call that "virtually none".

Human capital formation is, of course, critically dependent upon the number of available humans. This is the necessary condition. Yes, they must have education, good government (see contra example of Zimbabwe), and investment capital available to them.

So, we have the case of the Germans, on the one hand, who have lots of education, capital, and good government (although not as good as in the US or Singapore, for example). They are stuffed full of human capital on a per resident basis, but will experience a serious long-term decline in total human capital over time because they don't reproduce in sufficient numbers.

On the other hand, we have poor but fertile countries. There is no guarantee that they will accumulate large amounts of human capital, but the potential exists (provided their fertility rates do not plunge, as in North Africa and Mexico, for example).

Germany and the others I mentioned: human capital dead ends.

Colin Reid said...

"this is nonsense"

I agree, but perhaps anonymous is getting at something less dramatic, namely that the relative proportions of people of particular nationalities will change. This certainly happened in the 20th century: for example Nigerians now greatly outnumber Germans, while 100 years ago I imagine Germans greatly outnumbered 'Nigerians'.

Now you might say that as long as individual Germans remain rich, that's good for Germany, and if Nigerians remain poor, that's bad for Nigeria. But it's clear that not everyone sees the world in terms of individual happiness, and instead prefer to think at the level of strategic competition between nations, tribes or other exclusive groupings.

This kind of thinking isn't just popular on right-wing American blogs - it's still a real consideration for people who harbour strong, multi-generational ethnic rivalries, and so it's seen as 'patriotic' if you like to have lots of children and increase your 'tribe's' demographic weight relative to its rivals. Unfortunately, this way of thinking is inimical to economic development in pre-transition countries.

To give a simple example, imagine if in some alternate universe, India had experienced a demographic transition similar to north-western Europe in the late 19th/early 20th century. Now in this alternate universe, by 2007 individual Indians would probably be much better off than in our world, because the demographic situation would have been much more conducive to economic growth. But there would also be far fewer Indians, maybe only 300 million instead of 1.1 billion. Now the alternate India may or may not powerful on aggregate because it's so much more developed, so let's fast-forward to 2050, and assume even our India has become 'developed' in that time. Our India will have maybe 1.5 billion people through demographic momentum, who are all moderately well-off; alternate India may only have 250 million people, of whom a very large proportion are not working due to old age. They may well still be richer individually than our Indians, but it's hard to imagine that they'd be 6 times as productive per person (our India is also 'developed' by this point, after all), so our India would ultimately be more powerful at a strategic level than alternate India.

Of course, I've ignored the fact that alternate India would also attract and assimilate immigrants more readily. But because even alternate India is such a large country, the immigration flows would have to be massive, hoovering up a large chunk of the world's international migrants, to change the overall result.

Anonymous said...

colin reid: well done sir!

Fertility rates, and eventually population, will decline in every country. Question is, who will be running the show during the last act?

Mark Steyn, who has obviously influenced my thinking, says that history is demography punctuated by wild chase scenes. If that's the case, then, guess what? You demographers are no longer the thick-goggled nerds seated behind stacks of obscure-topic papers. No, you are now the stars of the red carpet. So, strap on your Gucci and Armani best, smile for the papparazzi, and offer-up some witty sound bites about about the future of Western Civilization, mankind, that sort of stuff.

S.M. Stirling said...

Steyn isn't a demographer and he invariably gets the numbers wrong.

S.M. Stirling said...

"Human capital formation is, of course, critically dependent upon the number of available humans. This is the necessary condition."

-- you're missing the point. The very _act_ of developing human capital reduces fertility.

You can have high birth rates. Or you can have education and economic development.

But you can't have both. As the quality of your human capital goes up, the quantity goes down.

This is why there will probably be less than 3 billion human beings in 2100. (Assuming there are human beings left at all.)

Anonymous said...

Stirling: You seem, somehow, to have ended up with two chickens and an egg.

I'm interested in a quantity called "aggregate national human capital". This would be per capita HC multiplied by the number of humans. In the long run, the limiting quantity is the number of humans, as the per capita figure is relatively fixed for developed countries.

So, the key for developing countries is to pump out as many critters as possible before fertility rates inevitably decline. The goal, next, would be to provide mass primary and secondary education in order to quickly raise aggregate human capital.

As to Steyn, he claims no one has debunked his arguments (or his figures). If you can, I'm sure he'd be interested. Post them here, and perhaps they can be brought to his attention.

Edward Hugh said...

"I'm interested in a quantity called "aggregate national human capital"."

Fascinating discussion you two. I more or less go along with Sterling. The important point is the presence of non-linearities here (or what economists call convexities, or increasing returns).

Aggregate human capital is not simply the sum of the number of the people in the workforce times the number of years of education of each of them.

Just look at the skew in the earnings distribution in eg the US.

The top end (high human capital) has a much higher than proportional value, and equally the bottom end has a less than proportional one. Comparative advantage becomes a load of nonsense in this kind of context.

The ability to leverage networks of interconnected brains across the internet (remember basic laws of networking, and the power form associated with increasing the number of nodes) is only going to add to these issues, even if such brains may happen to be located in Nigeria, India or the United States.

The whole idea of country and nation is at some point going to take a big hit. A nation was simply a market imperfection to leverage economic rents in a way which is now unsustainable.

What we are increasingly talking about now is global people and local people, and the former have a hugely higher potential economic value.

This, I suppose, is where I would start to pick holes in the whole Steyn thesis.

In nautical terms, I don't think the Titanic model works any more, you need to have a close look at who else you have on board before embarking I think. Master and Commander stuff is much better as a fluid strategy.

S.M. Stirling said...

As to Steyn, he continually makes statements that are simply not true.

To begin with, the whole "Eurabia" thing he keeps on about is the demographic equivalent of an urban myth. One of those mutant memes that keeps popping up no matter how many times it's debunked.

No European country is going to be transformed into a Muslim-majority state -- except Albania, which always has been one.

In the French case, for example, if the native French decreased at 0.5% and the Muslim-origin population increased at 2% (both grossly implausible) then in 50 years, people of Muslim origin would be 25% of the population.

He also makes assumptions about the unassimilable nature of Muslims which are untrue.

In point of fact, about 1/3 of French women of Muslim origin marry non-Muslims, and about 1/3 of children born to Muslim-origin women are born to single mothers. These are not the characteristics of the fast-breeding phalanxes of "hard" Wahabbists he continually uses as a rhetorical boogeyman.

It's a "I'm going to make your flesh _creeeeeep!_" rhetorical trick and I suspect he knows it isn't true, and just does it to annoy.

In terms of specifics, he recently mentioned Albania and Turkey as having above-replacement fertility; they don't. (TFR's of 2.03 and 1.92, respectively.)

He also claimed that French birth-rates are being inflated by Muslim immigrants; actually, "ethnic French" birth-rates are almost exactly at the national average and immigrant ones only very slightly above it.

I could go on and on -- his claim a little while ago that Moroccans were "reconquering" Spain, when they aren't even a large percentage of _immigrants_ to Spain.

S.M. Stirling said...

"I'm interested in a quantity called "aggregate national human capital". This would be per capita HC multiplied by the number of humans."

-- well, we all have our interests, but who exactly benefits from "aggregate national human capital"?

What improves people's lives is _per capita_ national capital, just as it's _per capita_ GDP, rather than aggregate.

If the world had 3 billion people instead of 6.3 billion, but their per-capita GDP was twice what it is today, everyone would be better off -- not to mention the ecological benefits.

In any case, you're doomed to disappointment.

The number of human beings worldwide is certainly going to top out and then start decreasing fairly soon -- no longer than 30 years from now, and IMHO probably much sooner. The decline will be slow at first and will then accelerate relentlessly; geometric progression works both ways.

60% of the human race already lives in sub-replacement fertility areas and it'll be 80% or more within a generation.

The decline will be regionally uneven -- the US population is likely to continue to increase for most of this century -- but it will spread to more and more areas and eventually be universal.

There will never be 9 billion people; there probably won't ever be 8 billion; it's quite possible there will never be 7 billion.

For the last generation, nearly all estimates have badly overestimated population growth and underestimated the extent of fertility declines. Only the UN "low estimate" has come anywhere near being accurate.

S.M. Stirling said...

Furthermore, it no longer requires _much_ modernization to start fertility rates dropping. You certainly don't have to be "advanced", or even to have majority literacy.

Just some exposure to the world media seems sufficient.

Eg., look at the Mahgrebi states, which only a generation ago had TFR's higher as _than the very highest in the world today_.

Over 7, and in Morocco's case over 8.

Now they're either below replacement level (Algeria, Tunisia) or fast approaching it -- Morocco went from over 3 to 2.35 in what, the last five years?

Iran went from over 6 to 1.8 in a decade.

And, equally significant, they're _still dropping_, with every indication they're headed for very low levels -- below 1.5, which will stop the "demographic intertia" phenomenon quickly.

Even sub-saharan Africa is now showing sustained drops on a broad scale.

Not _one_ African country has a TFR above 8; only two (Niger and Mali) are over 7; only 10 are above 6. These are high levels by 2006 standards, but they're much lower than they were.

Only two non-sub-saharan African countries (Afghanistan and Yemen) have TFR's over 6. And both have started sustained declines.

By way of comparison, remember that as late as 1962 the US had a TFR of around 4. That's the level that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have now.

So globally, fertility is converging -- fast -- on a sub-replacement norm.

By 2050, it will be the countries with TFR's around 2 that will represent "high" fertility.

Edward said...

What a pleasant surprise Sterling. We seem to be in complete agreement :).

I'm afraid I haven't been following the Steyn argument, is he a demographer or an economist?

"his claim a little while ago that Moroccans were "reconquering" Spain, when they aren't even a large percentage of _immigrants_ to Spain."

Did he really suggest this? How strange. As you know I live in Spain, and I don't note a very significant Moroccan rate of arrival in recent years (1995-2000 was different). But of the close to 5 million migrants who have come since 2000 I doubt half a million are Moroccans. There are probably more muslims from the Sahel these days, although I suspect even they will increasingly end up stopping in Morocco itself as the country takes off and low value industrial and agricultural activity migrates there.

On the "reconquest" argument, Aznar did use to suggest that this was one of OBLs objectives, but most of the Moroccans who have come here are of Berber origin and these people have normally fiercely resisted the sort of "arabisation" that OBL advocates (especially at the linguistic level), so I doubt he will find too much support from this quarter, and indeed the instigators of March 11 bombings seem to have been more remnants of old-guard arab nationalism than anything else.

Edward said...

Otoh, 100,000 people a month are apparently now fleeing Iraq, and it will be interesting to watch and see where they all turn up. Will they, for eg, have favoured visa access to the US? This would make sense, given the circumstances in which they are being forced to leave their homes.

Colin Reid said...

"-- well, we all have our interests, but who exactly benefits from "aggregate national human capital"?

What improves people's lives is _per capita_ national capital, just as it's _per capita_ GDP, rather than aggregate."

This is exactly the point I was trying to make earlier. Your disagreements with anonymous isn't simply a matter of advocating different *means*, but desiring different *ends*. You take the view that improving people's (economic) lives is important. But judging by his/her comments, anonymous is locked into some version of Huntington's 'clash of civilisations', a conflict that's perceived in the same zero-sum terms as the 'Cold War mentality' it has replaced, and so he/she's concerned about which 'civilisation' 'wins', regardless of how happy its individual members are.


"There will never be 9 billion people; there probably won't ever be 8 billion; it's quite possible there will never be 7 billion."

I wouldn't go that far - I think you're underestimating demographic momentum, unless you expect the demographic dividend countries such as Iran and Turkey to suddenly plummet to Italian fertility levels. We're already at 6.5 billion, and India alone could grow in population by half a billion or so before it peaks.

Still, we are clearly approaching the peak, and I don't think we'll ever get much above 9 billion if we do reach it.

Perhaps counter-intuitively though given the prevailing theme, I actually think the 21st century will be crunch time for 'overpopulation' in one respect: this century will be the one in which the Earth's natural resources are depleted fastest, because taken across the century, the average population will be much higher than in any previous century, as will per capita levels of economic activity. Subsequently, greater efficiency and falling population will reduce our burden on the planet's resources, but by that stage the world may have a significantly reduced 'carrying capacity', eg with regard to fresh water supplies and arable land, a problem which global warming will exacerbate, so we won't be out of the woods by a long way.

Hmm, I've seen predictions that Africa's population will more than double in the next 50 years, reaching 1.8 billion. But this doesn't take into account the continent's finite ability to provide water for all those people and natural resources with which to produce food directly or to raise money (especially important given the importance agriculture/natural resources have in most African economies). The rapid population growth of some areas where resource problems are already serious, such as the Sahel, clearly can't go on for much longer, but I fear it will be stopped in the worst possible way.

"The decline will be regionally uneven -- the US population is likely to continue to increase for most of this century -- but it will spread to more and more areas and eventually be universal."

In a few decades' time the US's rate of natural increase is likely to be fairly gentle if any, but the US will grow quite a bit more thanks to immigration. The balance of ancestry groups will change quite significantly, but this doesn't matter too much because of Western countries' enormous powers of assimilation, exactly the phenomenon that 'Eurabia'-type accounts tend to disregard. Indeed, an American blogger who obsesses over population levels of different 'cultures' would do well to look at his own country and ponder for instance why 'American-born Chinese' tend to be native English speakers and are often Christians, or why Irish-Americans are no longer considered a distinct racial group.

Edward said...

"unless you expect the demographic dividend countries such as Iran and Turkey to suddenly plummet to Italian fertility levels."

I can't speak for Sterling, but I think this is exactly what I am expecting (and I suspect that he is too).

Iran of course is a special case, since while it is at the dd stage politics may well mean that they do not get the economic component, and then things aren't so clear.

But those emerging economies that are exeperiencing very rapid economic growth (and rapid rates of human capital accumulation) at the present time may well expreience just this process.

This is what economic and demographic theory would lead me to predict. The key to this is birth postponement, and the consequent birth dearth. First birth ages look set to rise and rise, and to do so comparatively rapidly.

I think it is no accident that lowest low fertility arrived quickly in Southern Europe and the tigers (it will also be interesting to watch what happens to age at menarche, which for some strange reason also seems to be a correlate here, and we have the strange phenomen of the ever earlier arrival of reproductive age with an ever later age at childbirth. It is hard to find an explanation as to just why this should be, or rather why this biological process - which must be related with a nutritional surge - should be so tightly connected with the other, social, one, but little here seems simply incidental). Again Eastern Europe seems to belong to a different family and be on a different path (like maybe Iran, Cuba, Vietnam, Kerala in India etc) where the life expectancy increase occurs independently from the economic development one.

On the economic growth front, I am thinking about the case of places like Turkey, Thailand, Brazil, some Indian states, Chile, Morocco etc. I would expect to see lowest low fertility appear in these countries over the next decade. They could also be rapidly followed by current laggards like Indonesia and Philippines.

Now for a hypothesis to really cohere into a theory you need some sort of strong association between prediction from the theory and movement in the empirical data. The next decade should tell us a lot here.

But yes, this is what I think is going to happen.

joeimp said...

Stirling's comment that the population may be 3 billion by 2100 seems misguided. Crop yields are still climbing globally, especially in the developing world. Africa will most likely explode in population as it continues to accept that birth control is the domain of left wing liberals.

As the population expands, economies of scale are created which will further expand the ability of Africa to grow in population.

I wish that the developed world would drop the "empty shell" model of a nation (sub-2.1 TFR and high immigration). Low TFR's had a Darwinian advantage when resources were scarce - if there was a drought, flood, etc. We are in a time of plenty right now. From a Darwinian perspective, the optimal thing to do would seem to be breeding like crazy, as Africans are doing. The developed world has plenty of food, yet they are breeding like there is no food anywhere. This will lead to massive shifts in the demographic/ethnic makeup of the Western world over the next few generations.

By the way Stirling, 3 billion people would lead to economic collapse as there would be no economies of scale for more much of our luxuries that we have today. And I think you need to get on some anti-depressants if you are not sure if there will be any people at all left in 2100.

S.M. Stirling said...

"unless you expect the demographic dividend countries such as Iran and Turkey to suddenly plummet to Italian fertility levels."

-- yup. After all, Iran has gone from a TFR of over 6 to 1.8 -- lower than France, or Norway -- in less than a generation, barely 20 years.

And they're not stopping yet.

So yeah, I expect them to be down to about 1.2 or so within another ten to fifteen years. Along with the Mahgrebi countries, and probably big chunks of the Arab Middle East.

And I expect East Asia's TFRs to fall still further and their crude birth rates to fall even further than that, due to the gender imbalance.

Ditto India. If you look at the more advanced parts of India (Kerala, the urban areas), you see TFR's in the 1-1.4 range and these will probably be generalized, so when fertility hits 2.1 it'll continue to plunge.

By way of contrast, I expect Latin American TFR's to continue to decline but very much more gradually.

stirling said...

joeimp said...

"Africa will most likely explode in population as it continues to accept that birth control is the domain of left wing liberals."

-- Are Tunisians and Algerians left-wing liberals? Not that I noticed, and their birthrates are now within the European spectrum. Further south, the fall began later but is now well under way.

Nigeria's TFR has fallen by about a third already.

"As the population expands, economies of scale are created which will further expand the ability of Africa to grow in population."

-- which is why per-capita incomes there are mostly below what they were in 1962?

"From a Darwinian perspective, the optimal thing to do would seem to be breeding like crazy"

-- but human scare about their own selves, not their genes. This is observable fact.

The evidence indicates that when they have alternatives, women just don't want to have lots of children. Many don't want to have any.

"By the way Stirling, 3 billion people would lead to economic collapse"

-- that's odd, because when I was born there were fewer than 3 billion people, and we got along fine. When my grandfather was born, there were about 1 billion, and _they_ got along fine.

"And I think you need to get on some anti-depressants if you are not sure if there will be any people at all left in 2100."

-- we won't die out from natural causes, and I doubt we will wipe ourselves out but we could "transhumanize" ourselves out of existance





2:18 AM

S.M. Stirling said...

As to Africa, what I expect to see there is a combination of falling TFR's -- urbanization alone will ensure that, even without much economic growth, combined with growing cultural exposure -- with increasing death-rates in many places.

The result will be falling populations. Zimbabwe's probably already is; the last census was supressed/fudged precisely because it probably showed a massive drop. South Africa, Botswana and Lesotho all have falling populations now. Even if AIDS is fixed, by then the natural demographics will be in declining territory.

Places like Niger will hit the classical Malthusian wall; they're already chronically dependent on food aid. In the Sudan and similar areas, the other three horsemen will ride.

On a continental scale, sub-replacement regimes will work their way from north to south, from south to north, inland from the coasts, and out from the urban areas -- Addis Abbaba already has sub-replacement fertility, for example.

So there won't be 1.8 million Africans. Probably never much more than a billion at the peak. Demographic inertia and starting from very high levels will keep growth going for a while, but not much beyond the middle of the century.

S.M. Stirling said...

BTW, as far as global economic activity is concerned, only about half the world's population "counts".

If you subtract all the peasants scratching out a living from 2 acres of millet and their equivalents, we already have a population of about 3,000,000 -- if that.

If the entire remainder of the human race was to be shunted off into an alternate universe tomorrow, the rest of us would undergo an immediate and drastic boost in our per-capita income.

And that "active" population is already overwhelmingly urban and has TFR's of no more than 2.2 at most.

Colin Reid said...

"If the entire remainder of the human race was to be shunted off into an alternate universe tomorrow, the rest of us would undergo an immediate and drastic boost in our per-capita income.

And that "active" population is already overwhelmingly urban and has TFR's of no more than 2.2 at most."

You're being a bit disingenuous here. The high-fertility peasants may not contribute economically if you take a snapshot. But in the long term they contribute in one important way: of their numerous children, many will migrate to the more productive areas, and eventually become productive themselves. This means 'productive' regions such as cities can and do exhibit rapid population growth even if their inhabitants are barely replacing themselves. After all, virtually all of us are descended from economically inactive peasants if you go back a few hundred years.

Back when you were born, there might have been 3 billion people. But by your standards only a few hundred million of them would have 'counted'. So however you measure it, modern global economic activity is unprecendented in scale. Whether it will have started to diminish by the end of the century obviously depends on a combination of how fast the working-age population declines and how fast people's productivity improves. But how would modern financial systems cope with a state of permanent economic contraction? There are clearly some difficulties ahead here.

S.M. Stirling said...

"This means 'productive' regions such as cities can and do exhibit rapid population growth even if their inhabitants are barely replacing themselves."

-- actually, just to be precise, few large cities anywhere have anything like a replacement level of fertility. Shanghai, to take a quite typical example, has a TFR of about _one_ (1). India's large cities are well below 2.

Also note that about half the world's population is now urban, and the percentage is increasing _very_ rapidly. China will be majority-urban soon, for example.

Very low urban reproduction rates represent a return to traditional patterns, albeit through fertility rather than mortality. Until the 1840's, large cities _always_ had more deaths than birth and were maintained by rural migrants

S.M. Stirling said...

"After all, virtually all of us are descended from economically inactive peasants if you go back a few hundred years."

-- not really. It's been a long, long time since Western Europe had anything like a rooted subsistence peasantry, apart from a few fringes.

The market had become dominant centuries before the industrial revolution or mass urbanization.

As far back as 1600, only a quarter of English people died in the parish in which they were born. Nearly as many migrated to London alone. They were profit-maximizing individualists with few kin-bonds.

And in America, we never had peasants. We had _farmers_, which is a very different thing.

Bruce said...

The people criticizing Mark Steyn have obviously not actually read him.

The birth rate in Germany, France and the rest of western Europe shows no sign of increasing. Steyn is not predicting that the current populations of Muslims in Germany and France will grow to be larger than the native population. That would obviously be an absurd argument.

Instead he argues that the continued immigration from likely countries of origin (usually Muslim) will bring about major cultural and demographic shifts. Growth of already present Muslim groups will add a bit to this.

Immigrants from somewhere will come, since the economic pressure for it is very strong.

Anyway, assume that there is "only" 20% of Germany and France's population Muslim by 2050. That still entails huge cultural shifts for countries which over centuries have remained very ethnically stable.

I personally don't see this as a problem. Actually this growth is a good thing, on that count I disagree with Steyn. He sees it as something bad, I see it as a change for Europe, no better or worse. Serbia shifted demographically greatly, such that Kosovo, an area which was previously Serb majority, is now majority Muslim. So we already have historical precedent in recent time for demographic shifts in an area. I don't see this as a "problem" though, we are all human.

I think much of the disagreement with Steyn springs from disagreement with his political beliefs. So it's easy to take his parody his predictions and make him seem like a fool. Make him seem like a fool for insulting Muslims, that's fine. But his Demographic predictions are not so off the mark.

Andrew Lehman said...

"The special place in hell" for those committing female infanticide has an explanation. See http://www.neoteny.org/?p=132. Practical murder occurs in patrifocal societies because it enhances stablity and the ideal male.

vernongetzler said...
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Anonymous said...
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