Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

    Rapid population growth continues in the least developed countries. The revisionist case that rapid population could be overcome by technology, that population density was advantageous, that capital shallowing is not a vital concern and that empirical investigations had not proved a correlation between high population growth and low per capita income was both empirically and theoretically flawed. In the modern world, population density does not play the role it did in nineteenth-century Europe and rates of growth in some of today's least developed nations are four times than those in nineteenth-century Europe, and without major accumulation of capital per capita, no major economy has or is likely to make the low- to middle-income transition. Though not sufficient, capital accumulation for growth is absolutely essential to economic growth. While there are good reasons for objecting to the enforced nature of the Chinese one-child policy, we should not underestimate the positive impact which that policy has almost certainly had and will have over the next several decades on Chinese economic performance. And a valid reticence about telling developing countries that they must contain fertility should not lead us to underestimate the severely adverse impact of high fertility rates on the economic performance and prospects of many countries in Africa and the Middle East.

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