This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ben Wattenberg and the Legacy of Demography Is Destiny

Ben Wattenberg died earlier this week at age 81. He was an amateur demographer, but was influential for several reasons: (1) he regularly showed up on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to battle Paul Ehrlich; (2) he wrote regularly about the "birth dearth" and the need for the U.S. to increase its birth rate; and perhaps most importantly (3) he and his co-author Richard Scammon (a former director of the US Census Bureau) appear to have given us the phrase "demography is destiny" back in 1970, as I have mentioned before in one of the most frequently hit-upon blog posts of mine. 

The phrase caught on and most people, including me, typically add the caveat that while demography may not be destiny in an absolute sense, it certainly it is a key driver of events in the world. If you  read the Population Institute's new report on demographic vulnerability--and I hope you have--you will find the term there, as follows:
Demography is not destiny, but demographic trends do matter and rapid population growth, along with rapid urbanization, can strongly affect a country’s welfare and destiny. Nations with rapidly growing populations can still make gains in eliminating hunger, alleviating severe poverty, coping with water scarcity, minimizing environmental damage and restoring or maintaining political stability, but population growth can make progress more elusive. Rapid population growth, as outlined in this report, is a challenge multiplier and the challenges are already urgent for countries like South Sudan, Niger, Burundi, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia.
That is, in my opinion, not only a correct statement but probably an understatement of the challenge faced by countries with high rates of population growth. 

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