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Will Saving Poor Children Lead to Economic Decline?

This is vexing question is especially relevant today. Perennially, people have expressed concern that population growth would lead to doomsday scenarios in which jobs, fuel, and food supplies run out. In his 1798 book An Essay on the Principle of Population, economist Thomas Robert Malthus predicted that increasing population ultimately creates economic decline, and inspired Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. Since that time, population control efforts have expressed themselves in many ways: restricted social safety nets, curtailed funding for international development, and approaches to foreign policy.


Truth be told, strategies that involve coercing women not to become pregnant, and “letting children die so they do not starve later” are not only unconscionable, but they are also not effective. Today’s research actually demonstrates: Countries with the highest child mortality also have the fastest-growing populations and worse economies. And, countries where children rarely die also have the lowest population growth and best economies. In other words, the parallel between birth rates, child deaths rates, and poverty is very close, whether these rates are all high or all low.


Today I depart for Angola, my seventeenth summer at CEML Hospital. This nation in southern Africa is home to the seventh highest birth rate in the world, and the fifteenth highest child death rate – just under that of Somalia. Bleak, but not as bleak as before. With better nutrition, child vaccinations, and civil conflict control, I’ve been privileged to witness how both child births and deaths are coming down, while simultaneously almost everyone has acquired a cell phone.


Are you curious for more? Enjoy this 3-minute video as Hans Rosling illuminates how saving poor children actually improved life for everyone.


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