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Becker and the Demographic Transition


  • Ronald LEE

    (University of California)


It was a different era when Gary Becker did his groundbreaking work on the economics of fertility, during the years from the late 1950 through the early 1990s. There was great concern then about the “population explosion” due to sustained high fertility in the developing world after mortality declined following World War II. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich published “The Population Bomb” predicting disaster and mass starvation due to rapid population growth: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines – hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death. . . .” Robert McNamara, then the President of the World Bank, in 1984 said “Short of thermonuclear war itself, population growth is the gravest issue the world faces over the decades immediately ahead. If we do not act, the problem will be solved by famine, riots, insurrection and war.”

Suggested Citation

  • Ronald LEE, 2015. "Becker and the Demographic Transition," JODE - Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 81(1), pages 67-74, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvde:v:81:y:2015:i:1:p:67-74
    DOI: 10.1017/dem.2014.9

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    Cited by:

    1. Sandra Brée & David de la Croix, 2019. "Key forces behind the decline of fertility: lessons from childlessness in Rouen before the industrial revolution," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 13(1), pages 25-54, January.
    2. de la Croix, David & Perrin, Faustine, 2018. "How far can economic incentives explain the French fertility and education transition?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 221-245.
    3. Chabé-Ferret, Bastien, 2019. "Adherence to cultural norms and economic incentives: Evidence from fertility timing decisions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 24-48.
    4. Claude Diebolt & Faustine Perrin, 2016. "Le « paradoxe » démographico-économique," Revue d'économie financière, Association d'économie financière, vol. 0(2), pages 103-112.
    5. Yukio Fukumoto & Tomoko Kinugasa, 2019. "How Different are demographic impacts on trade openness by geographic region?:Findings from Europe,Asia,America,and Africa," Discussion Papers 1912, Graduate School of Economics, Kobe University.
    6. Le Bris, David, 2020. "Family Characteristics and Economic Development," MPRA Paper 105325, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Madsen, Jakob B. & Robertson, Peter E. & Ye, Longfeng, 2019. "Malthus was right: Explaining a millennium of stagnation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 51-68.
    8. da Silva Francisco, António A., 2017. "‘Gerontogrowth’ and population ageing in Africa and the Global AgeWatch Index," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 9(C), pages 78-89.
    9. Pauline Rossi & Yun Xiao, 2020. "Spillovers in Childbearing Decisions and Fertility Transitions: Evidence from China," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 20-031/V, Tinbergen Institute.


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