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The New Population Boom

Friday 7 January, 2011

I attended this presentation The New Population Boom organized by the CCGA.  Here’s the the presentation presented by Jack Goldstone, Virginia E. and John T. Hazel, Jr. Professor of Public PolicyGeorge Mason University School of Public Policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 2010  Goldstone @ Chicago Council.  Goldstone started his academic career @ Northwestern in 1981-1990.  This article The New Population Bomb was waiting for us on our seats as we sat down.  Here’s what’s not on his slides:

Historically, the increase in the quality of education has led to universal literacy, and as incomes have grown, the west has prospered.  But now India & China took off in the 2nd 1/2 of the 20th century & Africa is now industrializing.  The changes in the last 30 years have been amazing:  in 1980 Chinas’ GDP was 1/2 that of France & now it’s the 2nd biggest in the world.  75-80% of the growth in the world is now outside of the west.  Aging populations are leading to declining workforces, while because of medical advances leading to fewer health problems, if you make it to age 60, it’s increasingly likely you’ll make it to 90.  Declining fertility (1.5 & 1.3 children/couple in Germany & Italy respectively) & China’s 1 child policy don’t help.  The only population growth comes from immigration, but immigration is seen by many as a threat.  Migration is inevitable:  we just need to better register, regulate, & track immigrants.  There are 2 telling opposing signs in Texas:  “help wanted”  & “keep out.”  By 2050, 1/5 of the population will the 60+, & 1/4 of them will be in Europe.

Islam is the new face of youth, & 9/10 of them are in emerging economies.  You see children everywhere in Africa & they’re moving to the cities.  In 2008 urban population exceeded rural overall.  The State Fragility Index correlates with countries with a high % of youth.

By 2050, the rich will comprise only 10% of the world population:  the growth in the global labor force is in emerging economies.  Ours is the 1st generation where the succeeding generation will have fewer workers.  While the elderly population will grow 137% in the US & 60% in Europe, the worker populations will grow only 20% in the US & shrink 20% in Europe.  American social security is still easy to fix:  we just need to postpone retirement to reflect healthier workers, & reduce benefits to those who have high incomes & don’t need it.

Health care in America is a problem:  Americans pay twice as much as many others as a % of GDP (16%).  Your most expensive year of health care is your last.  Health care costs are expected to double in the next 15 years to 30-40% of GDP, so we need to cheapen our costs.  Some retirees are migrating to Latin America, but most are not comfortable relocating elsewhere.  Maine & the northeast have the highest % of the aged because the youth are all leaving.

Looking forward, the future will be very different from the past.  We need to remain flexible re: work & education, immigration, & encourage innovation/start-ups, etc..  Open trade & human exchange, i.e. more globalization, are leading to a new urbanism.  We need to have faith in European-liberal values:  Latin America & other fragile countries are moving towards democracy.  We can’t cut ourselves off from the rest of the world & age behind our own walls:  that would create too many angry young men.

Q&A

  • Diseases such as AIDS & malaria are on the downswing, so their affect on populations is dwindling.
  • Sharing western values like democracy could be ethnocentric, but encouraging human rights & allowing people to pursue their own destiny offers dignity.
  • Economic growth is driven by education, but there will have to be some give & take to let people “flow.”
  • It used to be easier to keep the well-educated here, a benefit of the quality of American universities, because it was easier to start a business here, but the US has dropped to #314 in this category.  We need visa regimes which make it easier for smart immigrants to start businesses here.
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