Reconciling Economic and Ecological Theory on Population

Keyfitz, N. (1989). Reconciling Economic and Ecological Theory on Population. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-89-027

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At one time economics and ecology said the same thing about population: beyond a certain moderate density an increment of population will be harmful. But in recent years neoclassical economics has diverged sharply from biology. Now if the administrator asks an economist of this persuasion whether promoting birth control is important he will get the answer "Not very"; if he asks a biologist he will get "Very important". The administrator is left to resolve a question that is too difficult for the scholars in the field.

This puts an unprecedented ambiguity into the policy analysis of population. What is needed is a theoretical framework in which both disciplines are incorporated, so that there will be one recommendation only, rather than two that cancel one another out.

The two papers presented are a first attempt at such a reconciliation. People are seen as living within an economy, and the economy is located within the ecosphere. Mediating between them is the culture, that both sets objectives for individuals and provides the technology by which they attain those objectives. On this theoretical approach the population is at the center of a succession of nested boxes representing the economy, the culture, and the environment. The papers work out some of the consequences of this approach. They recognize the flexibility of substitution under the price system, as well as the limits the environment sets on any possible economy.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 01:59
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:13

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