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May 1 / Jonathan

What’s the Problem With Less Crowding?

Dean Baker, What’s the Problem With Less Crowding?:

It would be reasonable to think that a densely populated island with exorbitant land and housing prices would be happy to alleviate its crowding problem. That’s not the thinking at the Washington Post.

The Post had an article this morning noting the surprising fact that the number of obstetricians in Japan is declining along with its dropping birth rate. The article notes that Japan’s population is currently shrinking, and that if current trends continue, its population will fall from over 127 million to just 100 million by 2050. The Post then describes this drop in population as a “problem.”

Well, fewer people, rising capital labor to ratios (and therefore higher wages), less crowding, and less pollution is not a problem in any economics I know. Maybe the Post will explain its reasoning in some future article, but for now, this front page story simply doesn’t make sense.

Might a similar argument not apply to the San Mateo County coastside? Or to the Bay Area in general? The population of San Mateo County has declined in recent years; why is that not a good thing?

One Comment

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  1. Mark Swanson / May 2 2006

    It would be great if the heavily Democratic Bay Area declined in population while the more conservative central valley and “inland empire” areas of California continue to grow. But that’s probably not what you had in mind ;-)

    But it’s a different story when you are talking about nations. Talk to any European government about the problems of declining birthrates- 25 years later you don’t have enough workers to keep your social security program funded. And, contrary to the article above, it has not done anything to make it easier for young people in western Europe to find jobs – just look at the unemployment rates for under-30s in France, for example.

    Anyway, regardless of whether we think it’s a good or bad thing, birthrates decline as income increases- it’s one of the most solid statistical correlations you’ll find. If you want lower birthrates globally, identify the ten nations that are responsible together for the vast majority of population increase in the world today and support efforts to help their economies grow. Declining birthrates will surely follow. Whether or not that will turn out to be a good thing remains to be seen.

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