Magazine article Foreign Policy

Sex Matters: Low Birthrates Aren't the Result of Economic Growth and Political Stability; They're a Prerequisite

Magazine article Foreign Policy

Sex Matters: Low Birthrates Aren't the Result of Economic Growth and Political Stability; They're a Prerequisite

Article excerpt

There is a well-known story about how a society stabilizes its population. As a country transitions from poverty to affluence, birthrates plunge--from six or eight children per woman to just about two. Population growth levels off. Prosperity and education, the story goes, are just about the best form of birth control there is. But this tale gets it backward. Low birthrates aren't a consequence of national wealth; rather, they're needed to create it. Soaring unemployment, endemic poverty, and flailing schools are quite simply impossible to combat when every year adds more and more people.

Battle of the Bulge

By 2050, the world's population is expected to grow by an additional 2 billion people, mostly in the poorest countries and enclaves. Countries with youth bulges are more prone to lengthy and frequent civil wars, and indeed, democratic success stories such as Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, and South Korea only came after populations in those countries stabilized.

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The Other Pakistan Explosion

The soaring Pakistani population could soon be a crisis: Without easier access to family planning, Pakistan could grow from a merely unwieldy country of 176 million to a combustible 550 million by the middle of the next century. …

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