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Who fears and who welcomes population decline?


  • Hendrik P. Van Dalen

    (Nederlands Interdisciplinair Demografisch Instituut (NIDI))

  • Kène Henkens

    (Nederlands Interdisciplinair Demografisch Instituut (NIDI))


European countries are experiencing population decline and the tacit assumption in most analyses is that the decline may have detrimental welfare effects. In this paper we use a survey among the population in the Netherlands to discover whether population decline is always met with fear. A number of results stand out: population size preferences differ by geographic proximity: at a global level the majority of respondents favors a (global) population decline, but closer to home one supports a stationary population. Population decline is clearly not always met with fear: 31 percent would like the population to decline at the national level and they generally perceive decline to be accompanied by immaterial welfare gains (improvement environment) as well as material welfare losses (tax increases, economic stagnation). In addition to these driving forces it appears that the attitude towards immigrants is a very strong determinant at all geographical levels: immigrants seem to be a stronger fear factor than population decline.

Suggested Citation

  • Hendrik P. Van Dalen & Kène Henkens, 2011. "Who fears and who welcomes population decline?," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 25(13), pages 437-464, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:demres:v:25:y:2011:i:13

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert N. Stavins, 2011. "The Problem of the Commons: Still Unsettled after 100 Years," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(1), pages 81-108, February.
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    6. Hendrik P. van Dalen & Kène Henkens, 2007. "Longing for the Good Life: Understanding Emigration from a High-Income Country," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 33(1), pages 37-66.
    7. Paul Krugman, 1998. "Space: The Final Frontier," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 161-174, Spring.
    8. Tialda Haartsen & Viktor Venhorst, 2010. "Planning For Decline: Anticipating On Population Decline In The Netherlands," Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG, vol. 101(2), pages 218-227, April.
    9. Hendrik van Dalen & Kene Henkens, 2005. "The Rationality Behind Immigration Policy Preferences," De Economist, Springer, vol. 153(1), pages 67-83, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Julie Fry, 2014. "Migration and Macroeconomic Performance in New Zealand: Theory and Evidence," Treasury Working Paper Series 14/10, New Zealand Treasury.

    More about this item


    externalities; immigration; population; population decline; population policy; preferences;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General


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