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July Newsletter

Zion National Park - Crowded with People
  • July 6, 2021

Happy summer from UPEC, and fingers crossed that the virus won’t mount more than a modest comeback.

Unless you’ve been observing a news blackout (and who could blame you?), you’ve probably noticed that population matters have been in the news quite a bit the last few months. The Chinese One Child Policy (which for years was essentially a two-child policy) has morphed into a three-child policy. Here at home, America’s (and Utah’s) birthrates continue to gently drift downwards, and the Census Bureau reported the “smallest” decade-over-decade population increase in the nation’s history. These trends, predictability, have spurred talking heads across the political spectrum to fret about the alleged need for more babies and repopulation.  

Meanwhile, “June in Salt Lake was ridiculous,” as the Wasatch Weather Weenies put it (a great blog, if you are not familiar). With seven 100 degree days, we shattered the old temperature record for June. The National Weather Service reported that the average temperature through the month was 80.2; the old record was 77.5 (of course set recently, in 2015).

Needless to say, however, most of the talking heads refuse to make the connection between our looming environmental crises and population growth.

Amid all the noise out there, it’s worth keeping a few points in mind. First, we should be celebrating birthrate reductions, not panicking about them. (See record warmth above; at this point, we can probably only hope to mitigate the effects of climate change, not arrest it, but every wealthy person’s emissions make progress that much harder.)

Utah is already crowded enough and the sooner we can reach peak population in Utah, and in the world, the better.

And all the talk about the so-called crises that will result from current trends is way overblown. Yes, aging populations present social and policymaking challenges. But, as we detail in our latest White Paper — and if you have never seen UPEC’s white paper on declining fertility, please give it a glance — declining populations are entirely compatible with increasing wealth gains per capita. When you hear someone spouting the conventional wisdom about the need for more people to keep the economy humming, challenge them to provide evidence that aggregate population growth increases per capita economic growth. Odds are, they will quickly realize that they have not thought through these matters very closely.  

And then mention our air quality!

Second, there really isn’t that much to celebrate in the first place. The current birthrate trends are promising, and we should continue rolling this boulder downhill (which is a lot easier than uphill), but Utah is still growing like crazy and projected to nearly double from 2015 to 2065. And, as for that “small” population increase in the United States during the 2010s, yes, the 7.4% increase in the 2010s is the smallest percentage increase since the 1930s. But 7.4% growth on a large base is a lot of people — almost 23 million, or the equivalent of five sprawling greater Phoenixes.

A couple of quick items in closing. If you have not watched our 3-minute video on YouTube, please do so here. Please share with friends and family! Also, we’ve been trying to post a variety of interesting articles on Facebook. If you are on Facebook and have not liked us, please do so here. As always, please share this blog to anyone you think might be interested.

Thanks for your interest,

Your friends at UPEC

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