Jack Kates

7 karmaJoined Apr 2022



    Two papers that come to mind, both by Charles Jones at Stanford

    1. The Past and Future of Economic Growth: A Semi-Endogenous Perspective, about models that try to think about the impact of population and researcher proportion on growth.
    2. The End of Economic Growth? Unintended Consequences of a Declining Population, about how these models suggest a declining population would lead to a stagnation in economic growth.

    He presented the first one in a lecture linked below at the Global Priorities Institute.

    A few reasons we might at least want to consider believing more people = better economy

    1. Large increase in GDP per capita in the last few centuries was associated with a large increase in the global population. Obviously some of that increase in population is due to the economic growth itself but the connection could run both ways
    2. The per capita cost of R&D is smaller in a larger population, but the benefits are the same, since unlike in the production of goods, ideas can be shared by the whole population.
    3. More speculatively and qualitatively, a society which is growing in population is younger and potentially more dynamic and future-oriented than a society which is declining and aging

    A reason for skepticism is that while population size is plausibly a major factor in long-run growth, it doesn't seem to have been the main factor in recent US growth. From paper 1 above,

    Section 3 conducts a growth accounting exercise for the United States to make a key point: despite the fact that semi-endogenous growth theory implies that the entirety of long-run growth is ultimately due to population growth, this is far from true historically, say for the past 75 years. Instead, population growth contributes only around 20 percent of U.S. economic growth since 1950. Rising educational attainment, declining misallocation, and rising (global) research intensity account for more than 80 percent of growth.