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Sunday November 19, 2017

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How education can moderate population growth

In 2014, an analysis of United Nations data by the journal Science concluded that a halt to population growth in this century was unlikely and projected that between 9.6bn and 12.3bn people would be living on the planet by 2100.

Population growth is uneven. Many developed countries, for example, have seen their fertility rate fall below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. Some, like Bulgaria, have seen their population fall from 9m in 1990 to about 7.3m today, says Wolfgang Lutz, founding director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital.

In addition to improvements in clean energy and energy efficiency, education will also play a role. “Many surveys show that environmental consciousness is linked to education,” says Mr Lutz . To that end, his organisation developed an online tool that provides policymakers with data and analyses to help them develop programmes that balance social, economic and environmental goals with demographic shifts.

Education is a central issue in the complex process of development, for it has been found to be related to fertility and hence population growth, to the status of women, to labour force skills, as well as to cultural and infrastructural development in general. This paper consists of two main parts. The first examines the role of education and reviews school enrollment patterns in the world during the last 30 years. We deduce from this review some general patterns of enrollment increase and gender differential. The second part presents multi-state population projections by educational level and the resulting adult educational attainment, fertility levels and population growth. 

One of the most powerful tools in stemming population growth will be education, says Mark Montgomery, an economics professor at Stony Brook University and a researcher at the Population Council. “We’ve seen some astonishing transitions, especially in the 1970s in what were then poor countries where fertility rates fell when levels of education went up.”

“Education leads to lower birth rates and slows population growth,” he says. “This makes it easier for countries to develop. A more-educated workforce also makes poverty eradication and economic growth easier to achieve.”

Written by Sarah Murray 

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