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People versus development: An overview of the economics of population growth

Preventive Medicine
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0091-7435(77)90002-0
  • Economics


Abstract Population growth and economic change are tightly bound together. The very high rates of population growth in the poor countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America complicate the resolution of basic economic problems and make it more difficult to assure an adequate rate of growth of income per capita. Simultaneously, the relative stagnation of per capita incomes, especially in the rural areas of the very poor countries, helps to maintain high levels of fertility, thus completing a circle of rapid population growth and poverty. There is no one solution to the dilemma. Neither dramatic improvements in the standard of living nor the rapid adoption of fertility control are likely in the poorest countries. Moreover, population control by itself will certainly not solve the problem of poverty, both because population limitation without economic growth would merely share the poverty and because the masses of the population are unlikely to reduce their fertility without the prospect of some improvement in the standard of living. On the other hand, it seems to be equally clear that, with the exception of those few countries that are possessed of enormous wealth in the form of natural resources, poverty will not be eliminated without a major reduction in the rate of population growth. Thus, the best hope lies in some judicious combination of social and economic reform and population control. This solution probably implies an increased commitment of finance and other resources to population programs.

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