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The Population Problem: Theory and Evidence


  • Partha Dasgupta


This article applies economic analysis to rural households in poor countries to see what one may mean by a "population problem." It is argued that there is a serious population problem in certain regions of the world, and that it is in varying degrees linked to poverty, to gender inequalities in the exercise of power, to communal sharing of child-rearing, and to an erosion of the local environmental-resource base. It is argued that some of the links may, to an extent, be synergistic. One manifestation of the problem is that very high fertility rates are experienced by women bearing risks of death that should now be unacceptable. An argument is sketched to show how the cycle of poverty, low birth-weight and stature, and high fertility rates can perpetuate within a dynasty. The one general policy conclusion that emerges is that a population policy in these parts should not only contain such measures as family-planning programs, improved female education, and employment opportunities, but also those measures that are directed at the alleviation of poverty, such as improved credit, insurance, and savings opportunities, and a ready availability of basic household needs, such as potable water and fuel. It is argued that these latter measures lower the net private benefits of procreation.

Suggested Citation

  • Partha Dasgupta, 1995. "The Population Problem: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1879-1902, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:33:y:1995:i:4:p:1879-1902

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Reinganum, Jennifer F, 1983. "Uncertain Innovation and the Persistence of Monopoly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 741-748, September.
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    3. R. H. Strotz, 1955. "Myopia and Inconsistency in Dynamic Utility Maximization," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(3), pages 165-180.
    4. David Martimort, 1999. "The Life Cycle of Regulatory Agencies: Dynamic Capture and Transaction Costs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(4), pages 929-947.
    5. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Selection and the Evolution of Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 649-670, May.
    6. Michael Gort, 1969. "An Economic Disturbance Theory of Mergers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(4), pages 624-642.
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