Effects Of Population Growth In Developing Countries – It’s easy to see why some people have become alarmed when it comes to population growth rates in developing countries. Looking at the world’s lowest-income countries, they see a population of more than 2 billion growing at a rate that suggests doubling every 31 years. How will we deal with so many more people? The following statement captures the essence of widely expressed concerns:
“At the end of each day, the world now has two hundred thousand more mouths to feed than it had the day before; at the end of each week, a million and a half more; at the end of each year, eighty million more. … The human race, which now doubles in number every thirty-five years , has fallen into an ambush of his own making; economists call it the “Malthusian trap,” after the man who most forcefully stated our biological predicament: population growth tends to outstrip food supply.” Philip Appleman, ed., Thomas Robert Malthus: An Essay on the Principle of Population – Text, Sources and Background, Criticism (New York: Norton, 1976), xi.
Effects Of Population Growth In Developing Countries
But what should we say about such a statement? There is no doubt that if the world’s population continues to grow at the rate it has grown in the last 50 years, it is likely that economic growth will translate into an improvement in the average standard of living. But the rate of population growth is not constant; It is influenced by other economic forces. This part begins with a discussion of the relationship between population growth and income growth, then turns to an explanation of the sources of population growth in low-income countries, and ends with a discussion of the Malthusian warning suggested in the quote above.
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At the simplistic level, the relationship between population growth and per capita income growth is clear. After all, per capita income is equal to total income of population segments. The growth rate of income per capita is approximately equal to the difference between the growth rate of income and the growth rate of the population. Kenya’s annual growth rate in real GDP from 1975 to 2005, for example, was 3.3%. Its population growth rate during that period was 3.2%, which leaves it with a GDP per capita growth rate of only 0.1%. A slower population growth rate, along with the same GDP growth rate, would have left Kenya with more impressive gains in per capita income. This means that if the developing countries want to increase the rate of growth in GDP per capita compared to the developed countries, they must limit their population growth.
Figure 33.2 “Population Growth and Income, 1975–2005” plots population growth rates versus per capita GDP growth rates from 1975 to 2005 for more than 100 developing countries. We don’t see a simple connection. Many countries experienced both rapid population growth and negative changes in real GDP per capita. But others had relatively rapid population growth, yet had rapid increases in GDP per capita. Clearly, there is more to achieving gains in per capita income than simply slowing population growth. But the challenge raised at the beginning of this section remains: can the world continue to feed a population that is growing exponentially – that is, doubling the regular intervals?
A scatter diagram of the population growth rates versus the GNP per capita growth rates for various developing countries for the period 1975-2005 does not indicate a systematic relationship between population rates and income growth.
. This proved to be one of the most enduring works of the time. Malthus’s basic argument was that population growth would inevitably collide with diminishing returns.
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Diminishing returns imply that adding more labor to a fixed amount of land increases productivity, but by smaller amounts. Eventually, Malthus concluded, the increase in food production would be too small to sustain the increased number of humans consuming that output. As the population continues to grow unchecked, the number of people will eventually exceed the country’s ability to produce enough food. There will be an inevitable Malthusian trap. , a point where the world is no longer able to meet the food requirements of the population, and hunger becomes the main barrier to population growth.
A Malthusian trap is illustrated in Figure 33.3 “The Malthusian Trap”. We can determine the total amount of food needed by multiplying the population in each period by the amount of food required to keep one person alive. As the population grows exponentially, food requirements increase at an ever-increasing rate, as shown by the curve labeled “Food Required.” Food produced, according to Malthus, increases by a fixed amount each period; Its growth is shown by a straight line sloping upwards labeled “Food Produced”. The food required eventually exceeds the food produced, and the Malthusian trap arrives in time
If the population grows at a constant exponential rate, the amount of food required will grow exponentially. But Malthus stated that food production can only increase by a fixed amount in each period. Given these two different growth processes, food requirements will eventually catch up with food production. The population reaches the subsistence level of food production in the Malthusian trap, shown here at point T.
What happens in the Malthusian trap? It is clear that there is not enough food to support the population growth implied by the “food required” curve. Instead, people starve, and the population begins to rise arithmetically, held by the “food produced” curve. Hunger becomes the force limiting the population; The population lives on the edge of existence. For Malthus, the long-term fate of humans was a standard of living barely sufficient to keep them alive. As he put it, “The landscape has a melancholy tone.”
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Happily, Malthus’ predictions do not match the experience of Western societies in the 19th and 20th centuries. One weakness of his argument is that he did not take into account the gains in productivity that could be achieved through increased use of physical capital and new technologies in agriculture. An increase in the amount of capital per worker in the form of machinery, improvement of seeds, irrigation and fertilization enabled a huge increase in agricultural output at the same time as the increase in labor supply. Agricultural productivity has risen rapidly in the United States over the past two centuries, exactly the opposite of the decline in productivity expected by Malthus. Productivity continued to expand.
Malthus was also wrong about the relationship between population growth and income. He believed that any increase in income would increase population growth. But the law of demand tells us that the opposite may be true: higher incomes tend to reduce population growth. The main cost of having children is the opportunity cost of parents’ time raising them – higher income increases this opportunity cost. A higher income increases the cost of having children and tends to reduce the number of children people want, thus slowing population growth.
Panel (a) of Figure 33.4 “Income levels and population growth” shows the birth rates of low, middle and high income countries for the period 2000-2005. We see that the higher the income level, the lower the birth rate. Fewer births translate into slower population growth. In panel (b), we see that high-income countries have had much slower population growth rates than middle- and low-income countries over the past 30 years.
Panel (a) shows that low-income countries had much higher total fertility rates (births per woman) during the period 2000-2005 than high-income countries. In panel (b), we see that low-income countries had a much higher rate of population growth during the period 1975–2005.
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An increase in a country’s income can slow its population growth rate. Hong Kong, for example, has enjoyed dramatic income gains since the 1960s. Its birth rate and population growth rate fell by more than half during that period.
But if economic development can slow population growth, it can also increase it. One of the first achievements that a developing country can achieve is improvements in the basics such as the supply of clean drinking water, improved sanitation and public health measures such as vaccination against childhood diseases. Such gains could dramatically reduce disease and mortality rates. As much as such gains are desirable, they also increase the rate of population growth. Countries are expected to enjoy sharp declines in mortality rates before they achieve gains in per capita income. This can accelerate population growth early in the development process. Demographers have identified a process of demographic transition, a situation in which population growth increases with a decrease in death rates and then decreases with a decrease in birth rates. in which population growth increases with a decrease in death rates and then decreases with a decrease in birth rates.
The process of demographic transition has developed remarkably differently in developed versus less developed countries over the past two centuries. In 1800, birth rates barely exceeded death rates in both growth and development