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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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Education is the Answer

Since I'm a college professor, it would be easy to scoff at my solution to the Anthropocene and demography problem--more education. I thought of that today because this week's Economist has a cover story on the increase in university education throughout the world. I like the Economist, but in this case the story is too much like many real-world economists--only thinking about the dollar value of an investment, not what it means for society. A college degree is not necessarily the same as an education. Take Ted Cruz (please!)--he's a smart, Harvard-degreed person, but the Economist calls him dangerous and he isn't educated in the way that I mean it. We need to become educated so that we can go beyond superstition and bigotry and make real progress in tackling the problems that we humans are creating for ourselves.

Educating women, in particular, empowers them to delay marriage, choose the number of children they want (which is almost always fewer than a less educated husband would prefer), and make contributions to science and to improving the economy in potentially sustainable ways. Indeed, by including projections of education by age and sex into their population predictions, demographers at IIASA in Vienna believe that the world will reach its peak population sooner than projected by the United Nations demographers. Sooner is better, of course!

While more education is, in my view, the answer to the future, it is a two-edged sword because knowledge and the personal power that it imbues can be employed for purposes other than what we might wish. For many years now, Steve Ruggles, the current President of the Population Association of America, has placed a notice on the website of the IPUMS project at the Minnesota Population Center. When you download data from their website you have to agree to Use it For Good, Not Evil. If we keep that in mind in all things, we may have a shot at the future.

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