Effects 0f Population Stabilization
Many demographers and other scholars consider that a stable population and a relatively stable economy would be desirable (or.even inevitable, either by design or by catastrophe) [Meadows, 1972; Daly, 1973; Behrens, 1978]. But there are dissenting voices. The Japanese have been highly successful, in controlling population. growth, but some Japanese writers
now warn of the cost of a large aged population [“Concern- for Welfare of ElderlyGroups,” Japan Report, June 16, 1975; Soda,1980]. Some writer!”. on the problems of developingcountriesstress the problems whichcome when the younger generation is smallerthan the older, while they minimize the problemof population pressure [Bonde starn andBergstrom, 1980j.
To stabilize population, there must be a sharp drop in the birthrate, and this disrupts the age distribution for nearly three generations (see Figure 17-1, p. 422). In the United States, this is creating problems for old-age retirement systems. The Social Security stern taxes each generation of workers for the support of its elders. When it was started, there were sixteen. workers paying into the .system for each retiree drawing benefits. Today, there are only three workers for each beneficiary, and by. the year 2025, there will be only two, as shown in Figure 17-5. It is unlikely that workers in 2025 will be willing to give almost half their,.incomes to support
retired persops. Policy changes to delay-the retirement age and to reduce benefits have already begun and may be expected to continue. Some scholars expect the political battle between the younger and the older to become the dominant political issue of the twentyfirst century [Brock, 1983]. There are other difficulties. Upward social mobility would be reduced and minorities would be at a greater disadvantage than today
[Spengler, 1978]. Promotions would’ come more-slowly, with it taking 4.5 more years to move up to middle-management positions, according to one estimate [Keyfitz, 1973, p. 335]. Thus the shift to a stable population
would bring many transitional problems. ‘de are all so accustomed to rapid growth, both in population and in the economy, that the adjustments required by a slowdown of growth are alarming. An American demographer, Charles West ff, Director of the U.S. Commission on Population and America’s Future, issued a call in 1970 for a stable population. He later decided that a stable population of perhaps 250 million in the year 2030, followed by some decline, would be politically unacceptable and proposed a baby bonus to encourage more childbearing [Westoff, 1978]. Not many demographers agree with Westoff, for there are gains as well as costs in a shift to a stable population. The greatest, of course, would be to avert the doomsday threatand to postpone the day when we must either find substitutes for oil and other scarce resources
or return to a preindustrial standard of living. Me wbUe/,, stable population can have a higher tan41rd of living than a growing opulation. For a given income, a twochild family can live far more comfortably . than a six-child family. A stable population need spend much less of its income on raising and educating children and on constantly increasing the total supply of housing, streets, factories, public buildings, and all the other things a growing population needs in ever rowing amounts. Thus, more of its income
can be spent upon immediate consumption.
There are real gains to balance the pains of
transition [Daly, 1973].
It appears, then, that continued population
growth would lead to eventual disaster, while
a shift to a stable population would call for
painful adjustments J.asting over two or three
generations. Perhaps this simply shows how
any kind of change has its discomforts, as will
be developed in Chapter 20, “Social and