The largest improvements in mortality are initially in

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The global population explosion of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was
caused not by a rise in fertility but by a fall in mortality. Lower mortality and
improved survival rates increased population numbers, but also led to
significant increases in the number of young people since the largest
improvements in mortality are initially in infant mortality rates. In the long run,
reductions in infant mortality lead to a fall in desired fertility, creating a one?time
baby?boom cohort. As this large cohort ages, the resultant changes in population
age structure can have significant economic implications.  
Improvements in health and decreases in mortality rates can catalyze a
transition from high to low rates of fertility and mortality—the “demographic
transition” (Lee, 2003). Population growth is the difference between birth and
death rates (ignoring migration) and the global population explosion in the
twentieth century is attributable to improvements in health and falling death
rates. In developing countries, health advances tend to lower infant and child
mortality rates, leading initially to a surge in the number of children. Reduced
infant mortality, increased numbers of surviving children, and rising wages for
women can lower desired fertility (see Schultz, 1997) leading to smaller cohorts
of children in future generations. Better access to family planning can also help
couples match more closely their fertility desires and realizations.  
This process creates a “baby boom” generation that is larger than both
preceding and succeeding cohorts. Subsequent health improvements tend
primarily to affect the elderly, reducing old?age mortality and lengthening the
lifespan. In many theoretical models a population explosion reduces income per
capita by putting pressure on scarce resources and by diluting the capital–labor
ratio. In these models population declines spur economic growth in per capita
terms. For example, the very high death rates and decline in population due to
the Black Death in fourteenth century Europe appear to have caused a shortage
of labor, leading to a rise in wages and the breakdown of the feudal labor system
(Herlihy, 1997). However, in modern populations there appears to be little
connection between overall population growth and economic growth; indeed the
twentieth century saw both a population explosion and substantial rises in
income levels

Categories: Health & Medicine


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