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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nigeria: Poster Child For Why Too Many Children Can Be Problematic

Nigeria is already the 7th most populous country in the world, with more than 160 million people. The United Nations Population Division projects that by 2050 it will have more than doubled to 390 million and this could make it the 4th most populous country. Two other sub-Saharan African countries--Ethiopia and Congo (Kinshasa) are also poised to be among the top twenty in population size by 2050. This is probably not good for anyone, and that point was made strongly in an article in today's New York Times.
As graduates pour out of high schools and universities, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is nearly 50 percent for people in urban areas ages 15 to 24 — driving crime and discontent.In Nigeria, experts say, the swelling ranks of unemployed youths with little hope have fed the growth of the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, which has bombed or burned more than a dozen churches and schools this year.
Internationally, the African population boom means more illegal immigration, already at a high, according to Frontex, the European border agency. There are up to 400,000 undocumented Africans in the United States.
These comments point to the classic issues surrounding a youth bulge, as Debbie Fugate and I discuss in our book of that name (yes, a shameless plug!). 
“Population is key,” said Peter Ogunjuyigbe, a demographer at Obafemi Awolowo University in the small central city of Ile-Ife. “If you don’t take care of population, schools can’t cope, hospitals can’t cope, there’s not enough housing — there’s nothing you can do to have economic development.”
Fertility is declining very slowly, but it is coming down from very high rates, and at the same time infant and childhood mortality rates are declining and that more than compensates for the modest drop in fertility.
There are signs that the shifting economics and lifestyles of middle-class Africans may help turn the tide, Dr. Ogunjuyigbe said. As Nigeria urbanizes, children’s help is not needed in fields; the extended families have broken down. “Children were seen as a kind of insurance for the future; now they are a liability for life,” he said.
Certainly in Ghana it is true that women in the capital city of Accra have fertility levels that are approaching replacement level. So we know that this can happen in a West African country, and it seems that much of this is due to the willingness and ability of women to delay marriage and avoid out-of-wedlock births. This is not something that can be imposed--it has to come from within, and it is not yet clear whether Nigeria will move in this direction. Of course, we used to say that about Brazil...


  1. Do you know of any work that studies how cultures change due to demographics and migration? Carthage (in present-day Tunis) was a thoroughly Roman city for a long time, but that heritage is totally erased today, except for some ruins. I also think of the accomplishments of the Greeks in Asia Minor which have been completely supplanted by Turkish and Kurdish influences. (I teach church history, so these are the sort of examples I know.) Given that migration from sub-Saharan Africa and S Asia (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan...) will continue at high rates, and ethnic Europeans generally reproduce at below replacement rates, when can we start to talk about that European heritage of Christendom-Enlightenment being replaced by imported models of culture? Have enjoyed your blog a great deal.

  2. Whew! That's a big topic, and I certainly don't have an easy answer. The history of humanity is rich with people borrowing ideas from each other. This is bound to have sped up with the modern increase in population, which has happened in tandem with (and really for the same reasons as) our increased ability to go anywhere. If I were to look for clear examples of this process, i would probably start with the way in which London's neighborhoods have evolved over time.

  3. Interesting. I have spent some time in London and I could see the changes in action. I visited a local clinic to have a wound bandaged, and right away I saw a lot of older, white, English folks, and young Muslim women with two, three or four children a piece. I just ran across a review of this book by the controversial author David Goldman (who also writes under the name Spengler I see), and I'm wondering if you know of any good reviews of the book, or even if you have read it yourself. "How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is dying too)" (Regnery 2011).