I am very interested in the consequences of population decline, especially with regard to economic costs toward the society. I know that Germany, Italy, and Japan all have currently declining populations and are trying to figure out their futures. Currently the U.S. has a stable fertility rate of 2.1, which is the exact number needed for the population to keep “replacing” itself. But what if rate dropped even slightly, like in other countries, here in the United States? What would happen to our economy, our savings and retirement, social security, would it all be greatly affected?

I found a small article written for the MIT paper “What Matters.” Titled, “The economic effect of population decline: a subject for study,” by David L. Wiesen, it goes on to explain a little about the current situation. Shockingly he tells us little research is being done on U.S. population decline. He poses a lot of questions that I wish were answered or at least being researched. It seems like it is a possible problem no one wants to think about. We are having plenty of issues with medical care, social security, the aged dependency ratio (the number of older adults/the number of working adults) and the small incoming work force that will replace the retiring boomers; few want to consider the huge problems that could arise if the population began to decline. Yet, it would be comforting if at least some research was conducted on the topic. We do need to have ideas and policy options in place if such an event occurred.

He asks questions about the effects on employment, the impact on markets and products, how an increase in the individual levels of consumption could possibly negate the effects? This is certainly interesting to think about and he goes on to propose that it might not be such a bad thing. He states that any one country could survive so long as other parts of the world were growing. Also, he asks if the system would be more efficient with fewer individuals. However, free-markets are in need of growing populations and the question arises about their well-being, especially in our current economy.

My research on this question got me a lot more questions to think about then answers to review. It seems for one thing, opinions are all you can really find on the matter, since the only real population decline of a capitalist society were the distressing effects of the Bubonic Plague and the majority of their society was still evolving from feudalism. This was also a very quick decline that involved people of all age groups. The impact was dramatic and devastating, would it be so for us?