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Global Demography, Facts, Force and Future

  • World Demographic and Ageing Forum
  • David E. Bloom
  • David Canning


In the past 50 years, the world accelerated its transition out of long-term demographic stability. As infant and child mortality rates fell, populations began to soar. In most countries, this growth led to falling fertility rates. Although fertility has fallen, the population continues to increase because of population momentum; it will eventually level off. In the meantime, demographic change has created a ‘bulge’ generation, which today appears in many countries as a large working-age population. This cohort will eventually become a large elderly population, in both developed and developing countries. Population growth has been the subject of great debate among economists and demographers. Until recently, most have agreed on a middle ground, in which population growth per se has no effect on economic growth. New evidence suggests that changes in the age structure of populations – in particular, a rising ratio of working-age to non-working-age individuals – leads to the possibility of more rapid economic growth, via both accounting and behavioural effects. The experiences of east Asia, Ireland and sub-Saharan Africa all serve as evidence of the effect of demographic change on economic growth (or lack thereof). Both internal migration (from rural to urban areas) and international migration complicate this picture. The overall implications of population growth for policy lie in the imperative for investments in health and education, and for sound policies related to labour, trade and retirement. Understanding future trends is essential for the development of good policy. Demographic projections can be quite reliable, but huge uncertainties – in the realms of health, changes in human life span, scientific advances, migration, global warming and wars – make overall predictions extremely uncertain.

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Paper provided by World Demographic and Ageing Forum in its series Journal Article with number y:2006:i:1.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Publication status: Published
Handle: RePEc:wda:journl:y:2006:i:1
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  1. Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, 2005. "Migration and Development," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 6(2), pages 141-146, April.
  2. David E. Bloom & David Canning, 2005. "Global Demographic Change: Dimensions and Economic Significance," PGDA Working Papers 0105, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
  3. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Michael Moore & Younghwan Song, 2006. "The Effect of Subjective Survival Probabilities on Retirement and Wealth in the United States," PGDA Working Papers 1706, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
  4. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Rick Mansfield & Michael Moore, 2006. "Demographic Change, Social Security Systems, and Savings," NBER Working Papers 12621, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Michael Moore, 2005. "The Effect of Improvements in Health and Longevity on Optimal Retirement and Saving," PGDA Working Papers 0205, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
  6. Kulish Mariano & Kent Christopher & Smith Kathryn, 2010. "Aging, Retirement, and Savings: A General Equilibrium Analysis," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-32, July.
  7. David E. Bloom & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1997. "Demographic Transitions and Economic Miracles in Emerging Asia," NBER Working Papers 6268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. David E. Bloom & David Canning, 2003. "Contraception and the Celtic Tiger," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 34(3), pages 229–247.
  9. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Pia N. Malaney, 1999. "Demographic Change and Economic Growth in Asia," CID Working Papers 15, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
  10. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Bryan Graham, 2003. "Longevity and Life-cycle Savings," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 105(3), pages 319-338, 09.
  11. David E. Bloom & Richard B. Freeman, 1986. "Population Growth, Labor Supply, and Employment in Developing Countries," NBER Working Papers 1837, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Samuel H. Preston, 1996. "American Longevity: Past, Present, and Future," Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs 7, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  13. Bloom, David E. & Canning, David & Sevilla, Jaypee, 2004. "The Effect of Health on Economic Growth: A Production Function Approach," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 1-13, January.
  14. David E. Bloom & Jeffrey D. Sachs, 1998. "Geography, Demography, and Economic Growth in Africa," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(2), pages 207-296.
  15. Kelley, Allen C, 1988. "Economic Consequences of Population Change in the Third World," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(4), pages 1685-1728, December.
  16. David E. BLOOM & Jocelyn E. FINLAY, 2009. "Demographic Change and Economic Growth in Asia," Asian Economic Policy Review, Japan Center for Economic Research, vol. 4(1), pages 45-64.
  17. Nan Li & Ronald Lee, 2005. "Coherent mortality forecasts for a group of populations: An extension of the lee-carter method," Demography, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 575-594, August.
  18. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Mark Weston, 2005. "The Value of Vaccination," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 6(3), pages 15-39, July.
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