From the Editor Finance & Development, March 2016, Vol. 53, No. 1
Population Pressures Say “population growth” and many people immediately think of resources under stress. The mind jumpsto 19th century scholar Thomas Malthus, who saw population outstripping the food supply, or to PaulEhrlich, whose 1968 book The Population Bomb warned of global catastrophe from overpopulation.
Visions of a world depleted by humanity are embedded in popular culture, and in some corners of the world, population surges are a top concern, placing severe pressure on land, labor markets, and government budgets. But this notion of population growth speaks to only part of the story. Multiple forces—aging, migration, urbanization, and longevity—are creating a more diverse and complex global demographic landscape.
The full story offers surprises—some countries face a problem of too few people, not too many—and potential: some countries are positioned to realize a “demographic dividend” based on an expected boom in working-age adults while others can seize big economic gains if they are able to boost female participation in the workforce.
These crosscutting dynamics define population change today and are the focus of this issue of F&D.
David E. Bloom, Harvard professor of economics and demographics, opens our special feature with a survey of the forces shaping population growth today and proposes a range of options for managing what he calls “the most significant demographic transformation in human history.”
Other articles in our feature package focus on the fiscal consequences of shrinking and aging populations; the role of women in offsetting the problems of an aging population and...