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 12th (it came out in 2015), 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, March 5, 2018

Hungary is Hungry for People

As the Historian of the Population Association of America, I automatically keep my eye on stories that relate to Past Presidents of the PAA. I don't know how he does it, but Todd Gardner has his eye on everything and just posted a tweet link to a story about Hungarian demographics featuring Past PAA President Paul Demeny. Paul is Hungarian by birth, but received his PhD at Princeton and was President of the Population Council and Editor of the prestigious journal Population and Development Review until his retirement just a few years ago, which I commented on at the time. My wife and I had dinner with him at the PAA meetings in San Francisco just a few months before he retired, but I haven't seen him since, so it was very nice to "be in touch" again.
Hungary Today recently published an interesting interview with Pál Demény, a demographer who is researching population trends. The 85-year-old Demény left Hungary in 1956, lived in the US and now has decided to retire to Budapest. (Read here.) [And, yes, I definitely recommend that you click on that link]
He was born in Nyíregyháza, went to university in Budapest and in 1961 received a PhD in Economics from Princeton. Demény has analyzed the links between demography, economics and policies and claims that Hungary will face a dramatic population decline soon. He agrees that by 2100 Hungary’s population will be halved; it will drop to 5.4 million. According UN estimates Hungary’s population will drop to 8.3 million by 2050. Can this trend be stopped, or only slowed down?
Mr. Orbán [Hungary's Prime Minister] thinks that by spending 4.6 percent of the GDP on family support programs sooner or later fertility rates will dramatically increase. I think he is mistaken and Demény also disagrees with him. He says that Hungary’s population decrease is irreversible!
Many demographers have warned that the Hungarian government is already late to start an immigration program. Demény thinks that the population problems of poorer countries will not be solved by emigration, “because only a small fraction of the population might conceivably leave.” He is probably right, but the “small fraction” can run in the millions.
In the lengthy interview with Paul Demeny in January, referred to above, Paul discusses the immigrant issue in more detail. He also offers a very interesting stimulus to the birth rate, which I had never heard of before: give children a vote! Of course, you don't actually let them vote until they are adults, but their parents could have a weighted vote. So, if you are a mother with 2 children you would have 3 votes in an election instead of just 1. The rationale is that your vote doesn't just affect you, but also the future of your children. That adds nuance to the idea that demography is destiny.

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