The Great Population Spike and After: Reflections on the 21st Century

By W. W. Rostow | Go to book overview

ONE
The Framework

The title of this book, The Great Population Spike and After: Reflections on the 21st Century, requires some explanation. The Great Spike is illustrated in the figure that serves as the book's frontispiece. 1 The figure plots the rate of growth of global population from 8000 B.C. to 8000 A.D. In highly stylized form, it exhibits an average growth rate of zero except for the period between 1776 and 2176. In that interval, the spike occurs: the growth rate rises to a bit over 2% per annum in 1976, and then falls to zero again in the next century. Falling growth rates for the global population, the downward part of the spike, are already upon us.

I should emphasize the word "stylized." The world's population growth rate was evidently not static at zero from 8000 B.C. to the middle of the eighteenth century, nor will it remain static for the 8,000 years after the spike. It will fluctuate with the vicissitudes of history. But despite the illustration's oversimplicity, its message is significant.

Figure 1.1 shows, in absolute terms, the leveling off of the global population, which will take place gradually. Global population will attain, according to present estimates, an absolute level of about 10 billion people as opposed to about 790 million in the mid-18th century. This rise, along with the rise in income per capita, is a rough

-3-

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The Great Population Spike and After: Reflections on the 21st Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • One - The Framework 3
  • Two - Population and the Stages of Growth 45
  • Three - Technology and Investment 47
  • Introduction 47
  • Conclusion 77
  • Four - Relative Prices 79
  • Five - Cycles 97
  • Six - The Limits to Growth 119
  • Seven - The Role of the United States in the Post-Cold War World 139
  • Eight - The Critical Margin and America's Inner Cities 157
  • Nine - Conclusions 181
  • Appendix A - A Historical Analogy 187
  • Appendix B - The Demography of the People's Republic of China 195
  • Notes 203
  • Index 221
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