The Hard Math of Demography

by Addison Wiggin
Daily Reckoning

Demography is destiny, they say.

The early classical economists — Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, Mill, Marshall, and others — were keenly interested in the role that the young and the aged played in building wealth.

Living at a time when birth rates were high and populations were expanding, they wanted to determine how demographic growth changed wages, savings, and output; which classes benefited; and whether a larger population was a long-term blessing.

Two centuries on, Peter Peterson, in his book Gray Dawn, warns that we might pose a different question: What happens to the wealth of nations when the populations get old and begin to shrink?

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