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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Saturday, June 4, 2016

The World's Demographic Divide

Two tweets today provided an illustration of the world's demographic divide--the gap between the low birth and death rate rich countries and the not as low birth and death rate not so rich countries. For a nice overview of the issue, I recommend you read the PRB Bulletin by Mary Kent and Carl Haub published more than a decade ago. This is not an issue that is going away. Here are the contrasts from today's social media. First was a tweet from PopulationGeography (@PopGeog) referring to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about how declining populations are challenging (meaning harmful) to the rich.
Shrinking populations in the advanced world is one of the biggest single challenges to global economic growth, according to the former chief executive of the Australian Government Future Fund. Mark Burgess, now chairman of Jamieson Coote Bond's advisory board, said on Tuesday that governments and central banks needed to start tailoring policies to fit the reality of slowing or negative population growth and shrinking workforces. "The thing about demographics, just to be absolutely clear about this, is that we've never in history run sophisticated economies with sophisticated financial systems through declining populations," he told an investment conference in Sydney. "It is a truly unique event." He said shrinking populations "affected all asset prices in strange ways".
At nearly the same time came a tweet from the Population Reference Bureau (@PRBdata) referring back to a 2015 report by demographer Monica das Gupta in which she lays out the problems of countries on the other side of the demographic divide trying to feed their growing populations.
The global problem of climate change poses the greatest threat to the least developed countries even though they have contributed relatively little to the current stock of emissions causing the problem. 
Much of the developing world will experience climate-change induced declines in agricultural output, poorer health outcomes, disruption of rainfall patterns, and more frequent natural disasters, rendering some areas less habitable or inhabitable, and hinder poverty reduction and economic growth.
When you look at the graph she prepared (see below) of possible food growth scenarios, the single most important thing to jump out at you is that the trend in food production in the recent past has been essentially flat, yet a growing population demands more food. 

So, the rich worry about the price of their assets, and the not rich wonder if they will have enough to eat. 

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