Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Professor Kremer Says that Population Growth Encourages Innovation, Even in Poor Societies

A recent study reiterated the conclusion that population growth ought to be controlled in order to combat global warming, and other world problems. The authors of studies like these have exaggerated the benefits of population control, because they ignore some of the significant economic benefits of large populations -- in particular, the effect of population on the rate of technical change.

Some may argue that population spurs innovation only when the population in question is "adequately" educated, and that population needs to be controlled to achieve that adequate education. That's and interesting hypothesis, and worthy of further investigation, but let's not ignore what's already been published on this subject. Harvard's Professor Kremer wrote

"high population spurs technical change ... [historically] societies with larger initial populations have had faster technological change ...."

Michael Kremer (1993), "Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990," Quarterly Journal of Economics 108:3 (August), pp. 681-716.

In case you're wondering, the populations considered by Professor Kremer were actually LESS educated than the populations that some want to control today.

[Interestingly, the link above proves that at least some population control advocates are aware of the Kremer study, and have deliberately chosen to ignore it in the recent blogosphere debate]


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