Here is an interesting piece from Jonathan Last at the WSJ. He discusses the problems that may be associated with declining fertility rates in the U.S. We're going to talk about the relationship between population and economic growth and development in class later in the semester, and this article provides some interesting previews. The author's premise is that declining fertility rates result in economic problems. He argues that a more sustainable level of human capital (e.g. fertility near the "replacement rate") will make these problems more manageable. The article is a mix of facts, empirical evidence, opinion and conjecture, so be sure to think carefully about what you're reading.
For the purposes of our course, I hope it's clear that causality flows in both directions here. The result appears to be a negative feedback loop (i.e. an action sets in motion a reaction that at least partially offsets the original action). So I have to wonder if we're simply oscillating toward an equilibrium, rather than starting a new trend toward steady decline.
1. Economic growth may lead to slower population growth.
What evidence do we have in support of this?
What are the reasons here? J. Last pins "universal" college education as the starting point - but where does that come from?
2. Slower population growth, in turn, may temper economic growth.
Again, consider the reasons for this. Could slow population growth foster economic growth?
3. If 2 is true, should this hit to economic growth then cause a slight uptick in population growth?
...and on, and on until we approach a steady state?
Last uses Japan to illustrate potential problems that arise from slowing fertility rates. He then discusses the importance of immigration in terms of "outsourcing fertility".
Here is a related article at CNN Money. Hatip: CM.
He then goes off on the price of college and then land rents and infrastructure. I'm not sure I follow all of List's logic, but I'd like to hear your thoughts. Comments are welcome regarding any of these issues, but let's do our best to keep politics and opinion out of it. As always, data (e.g Gapminder, nationmaster) and links to more reading are encouraged.
extra: Who are Esther Boserups and Julian Simon?