Friday, July 16, 2010

Is There a Population Crisis? Are Schools the Solution?

My wife insists that the world population is growing fast, and that shortages in water and food are coming fast. She sites Limits to Growth from the Club of Rome, and its sequel.

I tell her that countries like Japan, Italy and indeed China now have (or will soon have) declining populations. While India and 3rd world countries are growing fast, the recipe for population control has been found, and that is education of girls.

Surprisingly the population crisis in China today is too few babies due to the alarmingly successful one-child policy.

From Japan to Spain the Northern hemisphere is no longer growing in population.  Further we know that US population based on births is nearly 0.6%, but 0.9% after immigration. It is more extreme in Canada.

Average population growth rate from the World Bank. 
Compare this to the map of literacy.
Literacy rates generally follow the same pattern as population increase.

The next two exhibits are from the Asian Times, and the article concerns Muslim populations, but the data is the same for Muslim and non-Muslim populations.

The red or pink graphs show that population growth, on the right, goes down as literacy increases. This is true for 168 countries when considered together.

Some developed countries have moved to negative growth, like the Czech Republic.

On the other hand, basket-case countries like Afghanistan are growing by 4.8% per year.   The problem of population growth is now a localized problem, and localized in countries that are poorly run generally.

My wife points out that on the scale of centuries population is going up rapidly, but I argue that things have changed recently. One should also notice that population was stable in the 1800s, so it is not impossible to have population stability. If one is a pessimist, and extrapolates from the past, then the future will be dim indeed.

World Population 
The important graph in my opinion is the growth rate, which is trending down since 1964.

Population Growth Rate
In one is an optimist, and extrapolates the trend, then the future will be fine. Secondly, we know that by educating girls, birth rates can go down.