The United States appears to be facing a possible population crisis. Statistics from the National Institutes for Health show that the U.S. birthrate has declined to the extent that it cannot sustain the current population level. Conventional wisdom suggests that countries experiencing population decline – largely industrialized nations – face serious problems. Yet in the latter half of the 20th century, we feared the threat of an exploding population. There are some subjects for which any outcome appears dangerous: a growing population because it outstrips resources and a declining population because it threatens to slow the economy. Are warnings of a new crisis valid?
In 1968, Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich argued that by the 1970s, the world’s population would outstrip its resources, leading to hundreds of millions of deaths from starvation – including tens of millions in the U.S. Other researchers suggested the catastrophe was less imminent but agreed that pop
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