Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Why Won't the West Reproduce?

QuestionWhy are population rates declining in wealthy nations

Joel Cohen: You have asked the $64 million question. And demographers believe they have answers, but they are partial, Monday morning quarterbacking after the fact. So the truth is that nobody predicted ahead of time that the world's population growth rate would peak at 2.1% per year in 1965 and then fall by half by 2000. Nobody predicted that. On the other hand, fertility began to fall around 1750 in France, before the French revolution, before the invention of the condom, before there was literacy, before there was women's rights, why? Because the nobility didn't have enough lands to tax to feed all of their sons, forget the daughters, the sons got the land. So we know from the records that the nobles of France started reducing the number of children they have from natural, compared to natural levels of fertility. They spaced them and they stopped having them earlier because they couldn't, there weren't enough people to tax. The peasants saw what the nobles were doing and they didn't have enough land to divide up among their children, so they started reducing the number of their children. So if they didn't have condoms and they didn't have the pill, which hadn't been invented, and they didn't have diaphragms, they didn't have IUD's, what did they do? You tell me. What did they do? Withdrawal, coitus interruptus. Okay? It's perfectly effective if you really are serious about it, okay, I don't recommend it as a practice today, it's too risky, but statistically, it worked. 

So fertility in France declined, began to decline around 1750 and has continued. When did fertility begin to decline in the United States? Do you know? Civil war. After the civil war, began to decline and has continued to decline. It dropped during the Depression in the '30's, spiked at the baby boom after the war, but has dropped back down. The only reason it's as high as it is now is due to immigrants, who have higher levels of fertility, but even within immigrant population, within a generation, it falls back to the level of the native born population. Okay? 

This shows that any simple answer I could give to your question would be wrong. Because in some countries, education makes a huge difference, and in some countries, economics makes a huge difference, and in some countries, you know, technology makes a huge difference, having the pill and contraceptive devices available. So it's multi-factorial and we don't have a good theory to explain the past and we have even less understanding of what will happen in the future. Let's take countries that are in decline now, Russia is using a million people a year roughly. Japan is in decline, Russia is in decline, Germany is in decline. Will those countries ever have a level of fertility that picks up enough to keep them from going out of business? If you can answer that question? You get the gold star, because we don't know. And demographers make different scenarios about the future, but the honest fact is, we don't know what the future will bring in that dimension because we don't have a basic understanding of why people choose to have children.
 

In wealthy nations across the world, population growth rates have rapidly declined from their peak in 1965. The reasons behind this are varied and rife with complications, as scientists still don’t know why people choose to have children.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
Keep reading Show less

The biology of aliens: How much do we know?

Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.

Videos
  • Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
  • "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
  • In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.
Keep reading Show less

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

Masturbation boosts your immune system, helping you fight off infection and illness

Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?

Image by Yurchanka Siarhei on Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
  • The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
  • Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
Keep reading Show less

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

Keep reading Show less
Quantcast