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.

You can download an iPhone app for the 13th edition from the App Store (search for Weeks Population).

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Population "Fun" at Nigeria's Expense

If you read The Onion even occasionally, as I do, you know that the insight and wit is wicked--on a par  with John Stewart's "The Daily Show" or the "Colbert Report." Rarely, however, does population growth emerge as a topic to be played with. Earlier this month, however, The Onion did just that, taking on Lagos, Nigeria in a piece called "Thousands Feared Born in Nigerian Population Explosion." You have to read the whole thing to appreciate it, but here's a taste:

Nigeria's population, already the highest in Africa, is believed to have increased by eight percent in the wake of the explosion. With hundreds still clinging to life, that number is only expected to rise.
UN officials remain unsure what caused the population explosion, but point out that border disputes with neighboring Chad and Niger have temporarily cooled heroin and cocaine trafficking, and mass slaughter at the hands of a traditionally military government has fallen to its lowest levels in 18 years.
The tragedy, of course, is there is nothing funny at all in this. It is, rather, a witty way to bring these issues back to our attention.


  1. Would really enjoy your comments on this interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor about "Eastern Europe's Coming Laborforce Implosion". I understand your concern about overpopulation, like in Nigeria, but I sense that you don't address the other side of the coin which is population implosion/collapse in some parts of the world. But perhaps I have not been following the blog long enough. Anyway, an interesting article here:

  2. I do discuss the population implosion in Eastern Europe (and East Asia) in the book, but it comes up in the news mainly in terms of Europe's lack of interest in solving the problem through immigration from developing countries. The Christian Science Monitor article you reference is, unfortunately, a bit too dramatic about the impact of the end of the communist rule in the region. Birth rates did not really "collapse." Rather, they went from already being low (at or below replacement) to being really low. This was probably a result of women postponing births (many of which were not made up) in the face of the new economic uncertainty. Furthermore, contrary to the premise of the article that outmigration is not such a big deal, that is exactly what takes young people out of the reproductive pool in that area. Thus, even if the total fertility rate goes back up in Estonia (as appears to be happening), the number of young women bearing children is smaller and so the next generation of children will be smaller than the previous one.

  3. Thank you. It is interesting to see that after the collapse of Communism birth rates declined, presumably in relation to economic and political uncertainty. Why do we not see similar dynamics in a place like Gaza, which I think is both extremely poor and has a very high birthrate?

  4. An important component of low fertility is whether there are alternatives to life that a woman, in particular, will have to childbearing and childrearing. The economy of Gaza has never been very good, and I suspect that a woman's life is unlikely to be materially better if she has a very small family, than if she has a moderate or even large family. Furthermore, people who have grown up as refugees are not likely to have the same perspective on the world as people who have more scope to their life.