Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Smaller Population and Decline Expected for U.S. in Year 2038

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Smaller Population and Decline Expected for U.S. in Year 2038

Article excerpt

of the present. When the Census Bureau predicted recently that in a half-century the U.S. population would peak at about 302 million and shrink thereafter, such matters as John Tower's troubled nomination or Dwight Gooden's new contract or Mayor Koch's election prospects began to seem ephemeral.

That's not because a declining population necessarily means a declining nation, or threatens some form of cataclysm. Rather, the idea of the future arouses a certain sense of awe, as if peering too far into it were intruding on forbidden ground.

Who, in any case, can imagine the world of 50 years from now? Or 100? Who knows if the world will even exist then? Or be inhabitable? Where will we all be, Kurt Weill's plaintive song inquires, on Coronation Day?

Demography, of course, depends on human behavior; so little in it can be certain. The Census Bureau insisted that its ``prediction'' was only what its experts considered the ``most realistic'' of numerous possible population paths. The forecast might even be too optimistic; such variables as war, pestilence, immigration restraints, starvation, contraceptive techniques and guns can and probably will confound even the ubiquitous computer.

Or the curve might go the other way. After many centuries of low population growth worldwide, after all, a declining death rate attributable mostly to medical advances was a major factor in the population explosion that began about 1950. It took more than a century before that year for the number of people in the world to double from 1.25 to about 2.5 billion people; but in the mere 38 years since, and despite considerable emphasis on birth control, world population has doubled again, to approximately five billion people.

The Census Bureau's ``most realistic'' estimate for the United States contrasts sharply with other population experts' predictions for the world. Globally, three billion more people will be added by 2025, if a United Nations projection proves accurate; and the world's population will have doubled again, to just over 10 billion, by the end of the 21st century.

Most of that population growth would take place outside North America and Europe, but that's nothing new. …

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