Kelley_oup[1] - The Population Debate in Historical...

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1 James B. Duke Professor of Economics, and Associate Director, Center for Demographic Studies, Duke University. An early version of this paper was presented at the Nobel Symposium in Economics, December 5-7, Lund, Sweden, 1991. I wish to acknowledge comments on this earlier draft by Nancy Birdsall, John Bongaarts, Martin Bronfenbrenner, A. W. Coats, Ansley J. Coale, Peter J. Donaldson, Richard A. Easterlin, Dennis Hodgson, Nathan Keyfitz, Geoffrey McNicoll, Thomas W. Merrick, Samuel Preston, Mark Perlman, Julian L. Simon, Steven Sinding, Gunter Steinman, Jeffrey G. Williamson, and Tony Wrigley. The current draft updates the analysis to include the 1990s. Draft: April 1999. Not to be quoted all or in part without the permission of the author. 2 Hansen (1939), Wattenberg (1987), National Research Council (1986). 1 The Population Debate in Historical Perspective: Revisionism Revisited by Allen C. Kelley 1 1.0 Revisionism and the Population Debate 1.1 Setting Debates surrounding the consequences of population growth on the pace of economic development have, since Malthus, been both vigorous and contentious. While pessimism--indeed alarmism--over the adverse consequences of rapid population growth has dominated the lexicon of popular and, to a lesser extent, scientific discourse, swings in thinking have from time to time occurred. During the Great Depression, Alvin Hansen and the stagnationists cited slow population growth as a cause of aborted or anemic economic recovery. During recent decades the "birth dearth" in developed countries has motivated writers like Ben Wattenberg to forecast long-term economic decline, waning political clout, and the demise of Western values and influence. And during the 1980s the so-called "population revisionists" downgraded the prominence of rapid population growth as a source of, or a constraint on, economic prosperity in the Third World. 2 This population revisionism appeared to represent a notable retreat from the widely-held "traditionalist," or sometimes "population-alarmist," view of the 1960s and 1970s, that rapid population growth constitutes a strong deterrent to per capita economic growth and development. In contrast, the revisionists have: 1) downgraded the relative importance of population growth as a source of economic growth, placing it along with several other factors of equal or greater importance; 2) assessed the consequences over a longer period of time; and 3) taken indirect
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3 Hodgson (1988) refers to the pre-revisionist period as one of population "orthodoxy," which refers both to hypotheses about family planning, and to the assumption that “. .. rapid population growth in nonindustrial societies is a significant problem" (p. 542). Demeny (1986) characterizes revisionism succinctly: "The more typical revisionist views, however, merely put the problem in its presumed deserved place: several drawers below its former niche" (p. 474) . 4
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This note was uploaded on 09/28/2011 for the course ENVS 450 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '11 term at S.F. State.

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Kelley_oup[1] - The Population Debate in Historical...

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