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Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Edward Hugh

Thanks for this New Economist. I'm not sure I'd recommend wading through the survey I did of the Oliveira Martins paper, I think it is really working notes. But the points on the first, fertility paper really are important.

Lutz is, in my mind one of the key figures in the contemporary debate. He is, in many ways setting the agenda. That doesn't mean people need to agree with him, just they should address the arguments, which are (i) is there such a thing as a 'low fertility trap' below TFRs of 1.5 (Sobotka is a book length discussion of this issue. He doesn't entirely agree with Lutz, but he's discussing the same issues) (ii) and more technical question of whether what is called the 'tempo' effect does permanent structural damage to the pyramid - Lutz argues it does - and again this isn't addressed.

Perhaps the biggest important omission in the coverage of the paper is current US demography, and why it has stabilised - which on my view is something to do with immigration. This issue isn't even mentioned. Part of the explanation may be found in the penultimate paragraph of the conclusions where they say:

"While higher migration flows from developing countries obviously hold the promise of helping to sustain population levels in the developed world — both in the shorter and in the longer term, due to the lower age and higher fertility of female immigrants — this is a path that several OECD countries seem to be unwilling to follow."

This of course is the US case, but diplomacy with regards to those OECD countries unwilling to follow this path (lets be clear, in the forefront would be Germany, and France, of course, is non too enthusiastic) means that all this argumentation and material is not employed. If the OECD stopped playing diplomatic politics I think it would end up doing a much better job.

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