In Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding--And How We Can Improve the World Even More, the economist Charles Kenny argues that many people have overlooked the enormous improvements in human well-being over the last few decades.
From his Q & A with David Leonhardt:
Q. You write that Africa, like the rest of the world, has escaped the Malthusian trap. What do you mean by that?--Marshal Zeringue
Mr. Kenny: Parson Malthus’s miserable vision of the world was that each country’s output was pretty much limited by the amount of land available. That meant if more kids were born, the same output was spread amongst more people — so average incomes would fall. In turn, Malthus argued that would push up mortality as people died from malnutrition or famine or disease.
In Malthus’s time, output worldwide was indeed pretty much static — for most of history, global G.D.P. had expanded by much less than half a percent a year. But since then, output has exploded — everywhere. Between 1960 and 2000, only one country worldwide -– the Democratic Republic of the Congo — saw G.D.P. growth slower than 0.5 percent per year, and only 11 countries saw output grow at less than 2 percent a year.
And looking at African countries in particular, while populations have been rising, there is no significant link between population growth and income growth. Furthermore, population increases have been associated with better health, not increasing mortality — between 1960 and 2005, the proportion of children in the region dying before their fifth birthday fell from 26 to 15 percent. So, the Malthusian trap is...[read on]