Journal Article

Is low fertility really a problem? Population aging, dependency, and consumption

Lee, R., Mason, A., Amporfu, E., An, C., Rosero Bixby, L., Bravo, J., Bucheli, M., Chen, Q., Comelatto, P., Coy, D., d'Albis, H., Donehower, G., Dramani, L., F├╝rnkranz-Prskawetz, A., Gal, R. I., Holz, M., Huong, N. T. L., Kluge, F. A., Ladusingh, L., Lee, S., Lindh, T., Ling, L., Long, G. T., Maliki, Matsukura, R., McCarthy, D., Mejia-Guevara, I., Mergo, T., Miller, T., Mwabu, G., Narayana, M. R., Nor, V., Norte, G. M., Ogawa, N., Olaniyan, O. A., Olivera, J., Oosthuizen, M., Phananiramai, M., Queiroz, B. L., Racelis, R. H., Renteria, E., Rice, J. M., Sambt, J., Seckin, A., Sefton, J., Soyibo, A., Tovar, J. A., Tung, A., Turra, C. M., Urdinola, B. P., Vaittinen, R., Vanne, R., Zannella, M., Zhang, Q.

Science, 346:6206, 229-234 (2014)


Keywords: World, ageing, dependency ratio, fertility


Longer lives and fertility far below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman are leading to rapid population aging in many countries. Many observers are concerned that aging will adversely affect public finances and standards of living. Analysis of newly available National Transfer Accounts data for 40 countries shows that fertility well above replacement would typically be most beneficial for government budgets. However, fertility near replacement would be most beneficial for standards of living when the analysis includes the effects of age structure on families as well as governments. And fertility below replacement would maximize per capita consumption when the cost of providing capital for a growing labor force is taken into account. Although low fertility will indeed challenge government programs and very low fertility undermines living standards, we find that moderately low fertility and population decline favor the broader material standard of living.