Issues in Brief, No. 38, July 2019

Demography is not Destiny: The Faulty Link Between Population and Development

By Kristen Carey
July 2019 (8 Pages)
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Some demographers have begun to argue that world population could peak in the next couple decades, with unprecedented global population decline in the second half of the century. It is widely assumed that fewer people on the planet would lead to many positive environmental, economic, and social outcomes. In this Issues in Brief, Kristen Carey challenges the perceived link between population and development, and provides a critique of the evidence that governments or international organizations are even capable of implementing effective demographic policy interventions. She argues that scholars and policymakers must embrace a “story of chaos” rather than pre-determining what various demographic trajectories would mean for development, and prioritize targeted studies that are smaller in scope to achieve incremental improvements in development projects.

Kristen Carey is a PhD candidate in history at Boston University. She was a 2018 Graduate Summer Fellow at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future. Her research focuses on ideas and interventions surrounding population change in Africa.