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Effects of Population Growth on the Economic Development of Developing Countries

Richard A. Easterlin
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 369, World Population (Jan., 1967), pp. 98-108
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1038476
Page Count: 11
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Effects of Population Growth on the Economic Development of Developing Countries
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Abstract

The existing state of knowledge does not warrant any clear-cut generalization as to the effect of population growth on economic development in today's less developed areas. Some theoretical analyses argue that high population growth creates pressures on limited natural resources, reduces private and public capital formation, and diverts additions to capital resources to maintaining rather than increasing the stock of capital per worker. Others point to positive effects such as economies of scale and specialization, the possible spur to favorable motivation caused by increased dependency, and the more favorable attitudes, capacities, and motivations of younger populations compared with older ones. The actual evidence on the association between growth rates of population and per capita income does not point to any uniform conclusion, though the true relationship may be obscured in a simple two-variable comparison. None of this means that per capita income growth, currently and in the past, would have been the same if population growth rates had been markedly higher or lower. But it is possible that the effect of population growth on economic development has been exaggerated, or that no single generalization is justified for countries differing as widely in growth rates, densities, and income levels as do today's less developed areas. Clearly there is need for more intensive research on the actual experience of nations, currently and in the past.

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