Liberal Arts Blog — Is There a Demographic Crisis Looming? Is It Already Here? (Except for Africa)

Liberal Arts Blog — Monday is the Joy of Math, Statistics, Shapes, and Numbers Day

Today’s topic — Is There a Demographic Crisis Looming? Is It Already Here? (Except for Africa)

Alarm bells are ringing. “Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.” (NYT) Is the biggest problem facing humanity climate change ultimately caused by too many humans wanting too much stuff or the prospect of too few babies to support an expanding elderly population? Today, excerpts from a front page story from the New York Times. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. “South Korea’s fertility rate dropped to a record low of 0.92 in 2019 — less than one child per woman, the lowest rate in the developed world.”

2. “Every month for the past 59 months, the total number of babies born in the country has dropped to a record depth.”

3. “While major metropolises like Seoul continue to grow, putting intense pressure on infrastructure and housing, in regional towns it’s easy to find schools shut and abandoned, their playgrounds overgrown with weeds, because there are not enough children.”

NB: “Expectant mothers in many areas can no longer find obstetricians or postnatal care centers. Universities below the elite level, especially outside Seoul, find it increasingly hard to fill their ranks — the number of 18-year-olds in South Korea has fallen from about 900,000 in 1992 to 500,000 today.”


1. A study published in the Lancet projects that China’s population will drop from 1.4 billion to 730 million in 2100.

2. “If that happens, the population pyramid would essentially flip. Instead of a base of young workers supporting a narrower band of retirees, China would have as many 85-year-olds as 18-year-olds.”

3. “China’s rust belt, in the northeast, saw its population drop by 1.2 percent in the past decade, according to census figures released on Tuesday.” NB: “In 2016, Heilongjiang Province became the first in the country to have its pension system run out of money. In Hegang, a “ghost city” in the province that has lost almost 10 percent of its population since 2010, homes cost so little that people compare them to cabbage.”


1. “By the end of the century, Nigeria could surpass China in population.”

2. “Across sub-Saharan Africa, families are still having four or five children.”

3. What will the ramifications be of this demographic growth rate differential?

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