"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God." -St Irenaeus of Lyon

Two Great Distributions

Because I study poverty, I spend a considerable time thinking about income distributions. Largely, we can speak of countries with high incomes, countries with low incomes, and countries with medium incomes. You can see a map that shows the global income distribution here in terms of purchasing power parity (which I think is a better income indicator than say GDP or GNP). So we have one great distribution: the distribution of income.

Additionally, when you consider the map, I cannot help but think about global fertility rates. Have a look at the global birth rate. We see a lot of overlap in that the countries with lower incomes have a higher birth rate. So we have the other great distribution: the distribution of people.

The rhetoric around these two distributions could not be further apart. When it comes to money, we seem to be universally of the opinion that we should have more of it. Go, go economic growth! Depending on where you fall on the political spectrum, you generally do not favour either reducing production or redistributing existing resources.

But when it comes to children, the dominant picture requires having less of them. The birth rates in the developed world are impressively low. [And as an aside, the UK’s rate is 1.66 kids per woman. The US’s rate is 2.05 kids per woman. I miss seeing little people.] Because population growth significantly taxes the planet’s resources, we should all embrace all forms of birth control including abortion.

If a high birth rate can stand as a proxy for income, then we have a problem related to the policies we encourage. Correlation does not equal causation. For instance, raising the legal marriage age and encouraging compulsory education will lower birth rates while simultaneously building human capital. Improving child survival odds can also lower the birth rate and build human capital.

Additionally, the desire for children is often like the desire for income. Some people would legitimately like more than they have. Yet, as we have emphasised the biological relative to children, we have families with large amounts of income devoting that income towards procedures like in vitro fertilisation. Sometimes redistributive solutions have their place.


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