Doom and Demography
Decades ago, many population statistics seemed to point toward global calamity. Today, the world’s population is indeed much larger—but it is also much healthier, better educated, and richer. Therein lies a lesson in the use and misuse of numbers.
For decades, the world has been haunted by ominous and recurrent reports of impending demographic doom. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich’s neo-Malthusian manifesto, The Population Bomb, predicted mass starvation in the 1970s and ’80s. The Limits to Growth, published by the global think tank Club of Rome in 1972, portrayed a computer-model apocalypse of overpopulation. The demographic doom-saying in authoritative and influential circles has steadily continued: from the Carter administration’s grim Global 2000 study in 1980 to the 1992 vision of eco-disaster in Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance to practically any recent publication or pronouncement by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
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Nicholas Eberstadt is the Henry Wendt Scholar in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of Prosperous Paupers and Other Population Problems (2000) and other books.more from this author >>