Examines the debate on how population growth affects national economies and synthesizes current research on the topic. The authors, led by Harvard economist David Bloom, conclude that population age structure, more than size or growth per se, affects economic development, and that reducing high fertility can create opportunities for economic growth if the right kinds of educational, health, and labormarket policies are in place. The report also examines specific regions of the world and how their differing policy environments have affected the relationship between population change and economic development.
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David E. Bloom is Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography and Chair of the Department of Population and International Health at the Harvard University School of Public Health.Review:
Social analysts have generally paid too little attention to demographic trends, as conventional wisdom holds that rapid population growth inhibits improvement in living standards. This short monograph by three authors associated with Harvard's School of Public Health attempts to clarify the complexities of demographic change and economic growth. Modern societies have typically passed through a demographic transition in which the labor force grows more rapidly than total population because a decline in mortality precedes a decline in fertility. In the right policy environment--one conducive to education and to saving--this transition creates the potential for exceptionally rapid economic growth, as has been experienced in recent decades by Ireland and by several East Asian countries. The authors draw attention to this opportunity for many developing countries over the next 20 years, urging these countries to take advantage of the situation. Similarly, rich countries need to prepare for significant aging of their populations and, in some cases, for shrinking labor forces--an altogether new experience in the modern era.
Foreign Affairs, May/June 2003
Economic analysts in recent years have accorded population issues a relatively minor role in the wider policy agenda. But in a new report for the RAND Corp., three Harvard School of Public Health professors revisit the relationship between demographic change and the economy, arguing that age structure -- rather than population size -- provides policy-makers with a critical tool for exploiting economic growth. Drawing from research conducted by the United Nations and other groups, David E. Bloom, David Canning and Jaypee Sevilla have put together a study that is concise and easily digested, even for the statistically-challenged... The trio's analysis proves particularly salient given recent demographic trends in the developing world.
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