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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Monday, June 29, 2015

Population Growth in the Middle East: A Look Back

I just happened quite serendipitously to come across the material from a Senate Breakfast Briefing at the Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, in which I participated in 1991. The topic was "Population Trends and the Middle East: Implications for Long-Term Stability," and the briefing took place shortly after the end of the first Gulf War. The meeting was co-sponsored by Senators Tim Wirth of Colorado and Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas and was organized by Jane DeLung of the Population Resource Center in cooperation with the Population Association of America. Joining me were Nazli Choucry of MIT and John Waterbury of Princeton (who went on to become President of the American University of Beirut). My first slide is shown below. It really tells the story of what has come since in terms of stability--or lack thereof:

If you look down that list of countries by highest rates of population growth, you can see where the biggest problems have emerged--Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Iran. Jordan is the outlier in this list both because it has had a lot of western support and because it has had good governance. Of course, being so close to so much other population growth has not been easy. Yemen is also right up there in terms of population growth and at the time its total fertility rate of 7.5 children per woman was highest in the region and one of the highest in the world. Iraq was a close second at 7.3 children per woman. Dr. Waterbury added the somber warning about the low level of precipitation in the region--more people, but not more water. Indeed, it is good to remember that when Saudi Arabia found oil in the 1930s they had originally been looking for water...

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