Risks & Trends

'Why Demographics is (Close to) Destiny'

Foreign Affairs

Nicholas Eberstadt | American Enterprise Institute
'Why Demographics is (Close to) Destiny'
'Why Demographics is (Close to) Destiny'
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China's demographic challenges

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May 27, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘Demographics may not be destiny, but for students of geopolitics, they come close.’

‘Demographics may not be destiny, but for students of geopolitics, they come close.’

‘Most global economic growth since World War II can be attributed to two factors:’

  • ‘Improvements in human capital—a catchall term for education, health, nutrition, training, and other factors that determine an individual worker’s potential—and'
  • ‘Favorable business climates, which allowed the value of those human resources to be unlocked.’

‘Human capital, in particular, has an extraordinary impact on economies.’

  • ‘For each year of increased life expectancy today, for instance, a country sees a permanent increase in per capita income of about four percent.’
  • ‘And for each additional year of schooling that a country’s citizens obtain, the country sees, on average, a ten percent increase in per capita GDP.’

‘Despite the possibility of such rapid and often unexpected improvements in human capital, demography as a whole is a fairly predictable social science.’

  • ‘Unlike economic or technological forecasts, population projections tend to be reasonably accurate for at least a few decades, since most of the people who will be living in the world of 2040, for example, are already alive today.’
  • ‘And although such projections cannot predict the future, they can offer a rough guide to the emerging contours of international politics—the changing realm of the possible in world affairs.’

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