Population Unmoored


PSTC Seminar Room, Mencoff Hall 205

David N. Weil, James and Merryl Tisch Professor of Economics, Brown University

After discussing the general approach and outline of the book, I will focus on some topics that should be particularly interesting to a PSTC audience.  These include 

  • The history of “doomsday” thinking regarding population, including excessive growth, excessive shrinkage, and breeding by the wrong sort of people. 
  • The intellectual origins of the idea of the population explosion, and in particular the links between the population panic of the mid-20th century and eugenic thinking in the pre-World War II period.
  • The integration (or lack thereof) between a Malthusian understanding of population equilibrium and the theory of Demographic Transition. 
  • The notion of zero population growth as a likely end point of the demographic transition and as a desideratum in terms of welfare economics.  
  • The usefulness and implementability of the idea of “overpopulation” at both global and local scales.    

David N. Weil is James and Merryl Tisch Professor of Economics at Brown University, director of the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Wealth and Income Inequality Project at Brown, and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Weil has written widely on various aspects of economic growth, including the empirical determinants of income variation among countries, the contribution of health improvements to growth, the geographic determinants of development, the measurement of income inequality, the accumulation of physical capital, international technology transfer, population growth, and the use of satellite observation as a measurement tool. His textbook on growth has been translated into six languages. He has also written on assorted topics in demographic and health economics including the economic impacts of malaria and salt iodization, population aging, Social Security, the gender wage gap, retirement, and the relationship between demographics and house prices. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1990.