Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Demography is destiny, once again with feeling

In the first of a two-part column, Jeff Jacoby discusses "The coming population bust." Forget about peak oil, have we reached peak population?

Human fertility has been dropping for years and is now below replacement levels - the minimum required to prevent depopulation - in scores of countries, including China, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Turkey, and all of Europe. The world's population is still rising, largely because of longer life spans - more people live to old age than in the past. But with far fewer children being born today, there will be far fewer adults bearing children tomorrow. In some countries, the collapse has already begun. Russia, for example, is now losing 700,000 people a year.

Even in the United States, where birth rates are still (barely) at replacement level, there are hints of the dislocations to come: In Pittsburgh, reports The New York Times, deaths now outnumber births and hospitals are closing obstetrics wards or converting them to acute care for the elderly. Pittsburgh's public school enrollment was 70,000 in the 1980s. It is 30,000 today - and falling.
Lotsa old people and fewer kids (i.e. workers). You can see where this is going.


Anonymous said...

Is it worth pointing out that there is a positive correlation between belief and birthrate?

Places where most of the people are religious (Red State US, Muslim world) have positive growth rates. Post-religious societies (Blue State US, Canada, and Western Europe) have negative growth rates.

One interesting thing is that Russia, which was atheistic under Communist rule, has been returning to Orthodox Christianity over the last ten years -- and the Russian birthrate has begun increasing in the last three or four years.

BTW, the effect is quite noticeable in the US. The deep blue states (NY, New England, and the Pacific Coast) have almost European birthrates. The Bible Belt states make up for that difference -- enough so that the US still has a positive birthrate. And yes, these are births to parents of natural-born American citizens, not those coming from south of the border.

JorgXMcKie said...

The increasing Russian birth rate may be coming too late to save them. I've heard that the Chinese are simply walking (or the equivalent) into some parts of Siberia and squatting. Also, given that the death rate is very high among middle-aged men, Russia may soon (ten years or so) run short of conscripts for its military as well as non-coms and middle managers in general.

It's going to get interesting there, in the sense of a giant wreck in which an Amtrak hits a tour bus full of nuns and then has an airliner crash into it interesting.