Negative Effect of Overpopulation.

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 814
  • Published: November 18, 2011
Read full document
Text Preview
Some observers attribute nearly all of the world's maladies to excessive population growth. They claim that rapid population growth has at least three adverse effects on human well-being. First, it increases poverty--the number of people that are impoverished, the proportion of the community that is impoverished, and the severity of the impoverishment. Second, it increases environmental degradation--the misuse of natural resources--with adverse consequences on many dimensions of human well-being. Finally, it prevents environmental enhancement by holding back the savings and investment that would permit environmentally sustainable economic growth and retards the agricultural productivity that would encourage environmentally friendly agriculture and conservation (Ahlburg 1994; Kelley and McGreevey 1994). These contentions, however, are not necessarily accurate. The adverse effects of population growth can easily be confused with other factors, because rapid population growth often occurs along with other forces that reduce human well-being (Kelley 1988; Panayotou 1994). For example, rapid population growth is common in many tropical areas of the world. Yet tropical environments themselves retard human productive activity due to heat, endemic disease, and poor soils (Sachs and Warner 1997). It would be easy to conclude that fast population growth lowers productivity, when actually the tropical environment may be the cause. In such cases, where multiple factors determine various outcomes and it is difficult to distinguish cause and effect, multiple regression analysis is a useful tool. It allows us to examine the effects of population growth simultaneously with the effects of favorable economic institutions and other possible explanatory factors. Essentially, we are holding the other factors constant so that we can measure the sensitivity or elasticity of one factor or variable (such as access to safe water) to the change in another factor or variable (such as population growth).1 We can find out to what extent conditions like poverty, early death, and access to safe water respond to changes in population growth. My first multiple regression analysis examines the impact of population growth, both short-term and long-term, on a number of conditions. The goal is to learn how rapid population growth affects human well-being and environmental protection. The countries in the sample are the countries for which the United Nations reports the Human Poverty Index.2 Short-run population growth is measured by the percentage increase in population between 1985 and 1990 in the sampled countries. Long-run population growth is the percentage increase in population from 1970 to 1990. Other important determinants of well-being, such as the proportion of a country that is tropical and the proportion that is urban, as well as economic freedom and the rule of law, are included in the multiple regression estimates. Thus, the sensitivity of poverty and environmental factors to population growth is examined with other factors held constant. Measures of the sensitivity of human well-being--the elasticities of these measures--in response to population growth can be calculated. Before analyzing the results of the regression (shown in Table 1), I will discuss current thinking about the links between population growth and key measures of human and environmental well-being. This will explain why these measures were chosen for analysis. POVERTY

A core idea of the Malthusian legacy is that population growth depresses wages because it increases the supply of workers and thus directly lowers the wages of workers--their "price." Depressed wages are likely to be particularly onerous for the poor. Labor earnings constitute the main source of income for the poor, who are less likely to own other income-generating assets such as land (Kelley and McGreevey 1994). In addition, the argument is made that population growth...
tracking img