The End of Doom

3 Statistics That Will Make You Smarter and Happier

If you read Reason you already know these three pieces of good news about global trends.

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Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has asked one of my favorite data-slingers Max Roser share three facts about global trends that everyone should know. Roser is the proprietor of the fantastic data aggregation website OurWorldInData. If you have been reading Reason, you already know these facts about the positive global trends for humanity. The amazing thing is how bleak many people believe the future for humanity is. This is largely because, as Roser notes, "One key reason why we struggle to see progress in the world today is that we do not know how very bad the past was."

Here are the three facts about global trennds did Roser choose to highlight for Gates:

Fact #1: Since 1960, child deaths have plummeted from 20 million a year to 6 million a year.

Roser adds that just because the world is in a much better place now does not mean that we can sit back and relax. While the number of child deaths is falling; there were 3.5-times as many child deaths 50 years ago. But child deaths are still extremely common; 11 children are dying every minute.

Fact #2: Since 1960, the fertility rate has fallen by half.

Roser notes, that "improvements in conditions for women and the health of children have driven a rapid reduction in fertility rates across the world. In fact, the global fertility rate has halved in the last 50 years, from more than 5 children per woman to fewer than 2.5 children. The world population growth rate has also halved in the last 50 years and is just above 1 percent. That trend suggests that rapid population growth is coming to an end in this century.

Fact #3: 137,000 people escaped extreme poverty every day between 1990 and 2015.

Roser points out that "in 1990, 1.86 billion people were living on less than 1.90 international-dollar per day—more than every third person in the world. Twenty-five years later, the number of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved to 706 million, every tenth person.

Of course, readers of Reason know that the rates of child mortality, total fertility, and absolute poverty have all been falling for decades.

NorbergImprovement
Johan Norberg

For more fact-filled information on global trends, you should also check out the superb site Human Progress.

Finally, I will also immodestly mention that all of that data on global trends and much more is available in my book The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century.

Check out my 11-minute talk on "The Amazing and Abundant Future" at the Voice & Exit conference.

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78 responses to “3 Statistics That Will Make You Smarter and Happier

  1. Fact #2: Since 1960, the fertility rate has fallen by half.

    I’m happy about woman having more choice, but this specific fact isn’t a happy statistic to me. I think that’s a sad trend in modern life.

    1. OBL will be along shortly to explain how the reduction can be explained by the Democrats successful war on patriarchal rape culture, although Trump is working day and night to reverse the trend

      1. Trump is only one person, he’s doing the best he can.

    2. Lower fertility rates are directly correlated with wealth. I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing that more and more people no longer need to have a dozen kids to work the subsistence farm.

      1. Neither do I.

        All of these factors are positive things. Lower child mortality. More conscious decisions on people’s part. I just don’t think that specific outcome he posted is obviously a happy one.

        But his Happy Fact was explicitly that “Since 1960, the fertility rate has fallen by half.” I am saying that is not specifically a happy fact. To some it is, but I think it a more contentious fact than others.

        1. To some it is, but I think it a more contentious fact than others.

          It requires context.

          So a mouths-to-feed environmentalist, it’s a good thing. To a technocrat managing a national pension fund that’s seeing shrinking growth at the bottom of the pyramid, that’s trouble on the horizon.

          1. Right. Voluntary reductions in fertility are great (or morally neutral). Involuntary reductions in fertility because we’ve moved from an agrarian society where more offspring meant more productivity and wealth to an urban information society where women can work as drones alongside men and fewer offspring means you and the offspring you do have are better able to pay taxes is hardly a good thing.

            1. I’ll say they are great. If it was involuntary before and they WOULD have chosen not to have kids given the choice, and now have that choice I’ll say it’s great.

              My only question is why children are seen as so scary nowadays. Lenore gets at this a lot. I think the reduction in birthrates goes a long with this extreme coddling and fear for children. Imagine being in such a constant state of fear about your 1 child. It’s outside the realm of possibility to them to have more kids.

              1. I’ll say they are great.

                It’s outside the realm of possibility to them to have more kids.

                Right, I don’t know how ‘great’ I feel about a switch from gun-to-the-head “Don’t reproduce!” to “Sure is a nice uterus you have there, sure would be a shame if something happened to it…” despite the fact that the latter allows affords more personal freedom. Especially considering that, outside China and India, we didn’t really start with a gun to anyone’s head.

          2. This is why we need more Central Americans to make lots of babies for America!

    3. It really isn’t. Bailey is also not noting how the reduction in the fertility rate was achieved in parts of the world through barbaric methods or are we to forget what occurred in India and what still occurs in China?

    4. Globally, I think it’s a good thing. I’d rather have two kids and see them both live to adulthood than have ten and see five live to adulthood.

      In certain nations, you could argue it’s overall poor (Japan comes readily to mind) but in others, this (combined with lower child mortality) is probably a good thing.

      1. Sure. But there is also the possibility of people having a big family and not having children dying. People are choosing not to, and I’m a little sad about that choice.

        1. You’re going to make a fine Catholic, BUCS. I mean this as a compliment

        2. How many of those big families these days can afford all those kids without public subsidies? It’s the biggest excuse for wealth redistribution there is.

    5. Why is it sad? People are exercising more conscious choice about whether to have kids. That is a good thing for everyone.

      1. And I said I’m happy about people making conscious decisions. There’s no contradiction to say I’m saddened by the decisions people make.

      2. why does fewer kids necessarily = more conscious choice

        1. In general it probably does. But another recent phenomenon is young women postponing having children until late thirties thinking that they’ll be easier to afford, and then finding they’re having a hard time conceiving or even can’t conceive without expensive fertility treatments.

      3. Right? Duh.

      4. People are exercising more conscious choice about whether to have kids.

        Sexuality is not a choice. It is known.

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      1. “MeganMuff”?

        Pics or it didn’t happen

        1. It was probably inevitable that applying a machine-learning algorithm to Hit’n’Run comments would result in a very strange spambot indeed.

        2. What’s funny is now the spambot’s comment had been deleted, making you look like the internet equivalent of a crazy homeless person spewing gibberish.

    7. I agree. People who choose to have no children are missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures. We also are losing out by paying with tax-payer dollars for abortion, rather than letting Planned Parenthood and others raise their own funds. As a Christian Libertarian, I don’t see abortion on demand as supporting the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of a pre-born child, and frankly think the pro-life movement is more inline with libertarian principles, especially the NAP (or Zero Aggression Principle, as Perry Willis and Jim Babka have dubbed it). Stephanie Slade has written a piece here at Reason titled : Why I Am a Pro-life Libertarian, that states the case quite well. http://www.unz.com/print/Reason-1978apr will link you to an entire issue of Reason that focuses on this issue.

  2. I am consistently puzzled why people think low population growth is absolutely a good thing. It saddens me, quite frankly.

    1. Frankly, it sounds almost like a minor sop to Maltusianism, which Bailey (to his credit) usually points out is dead wrong.

      Besides, how are humans going to colonize the entire Milky Way galaxy like he suggested we do a few days ago if we stop reproducing?

  3. “Fact #2: Since 1960, the fertility rate has fallen by half.”

    Most people would not see this as a positive. Not only are there negative economic ramifications of having a declining population, but a lot of reductions in fertility is due to forced abortion and sterilization. Are we pretending like what the peak population people pushed in India and China never happened and is not still occurring in China?

    And in the industrialized world, many studies have shown that the majority of women wish they had more children than they currently do.

    This seems more like an indicator of a world in decline

    1. a lot of reductions in fertility is due to forced abortion and sterilization

      I’d have to see some statistics before I believed that. Yes I’m sure it is a factor, but it misses the point. The point being that people all over the world are becoming wealthier. Large families is the norm where people live in poverty. When people become wealthier they don’t need a brood to work the farm or otherwise help to support them.

      1. No doubt that that’s part of it, sarc. Especially in the industrialized world. But, at the same time it’s hard to prove that increasing wealth is the sole reason for the decline, especially since forced sterilization and forced abortions still occur in parts of the world that boast the largest populations. Likewise, though, as you note it’s hard to prove that the decline is solely due to these practices

      2. The point being that people all over the world are becoming wealthier.

        What a shitty way to measure wealth. Why stop at 4, then? Just make up a bunch of shitty (and better) proxies for wealth and go hog wild.

        #4 More of the world relies on more terribly inefficient forms of green energy than ever before!
        #5 The world has become so populous and productive that even people living under brutal dictatorships are better off than they were 3 decades ago!
        #6 The abundance of people of such cultural and intellectual variety and prosperity have promulgated a moral ambiguity that our best technology is unable to effectively penetrate!

  4. Fact #2: Since 1960, the fertility rate has fallen by half.

    Roser notes, that “improvements in conditions for women and the health of children have driven a rapid reduction in fertility rates across the world. In fact, the global fertility rate has halved in the last 50 years, from more than 5 children per woman to fewer than 2.5 children. The world population growth rate has also halved in the last 50 years and is just above 1 percent. That trend suggests that rapid population growth is coming to an end in this century.

    This one is fertile ground for discussion.

    It’s certainly good for “population bomb” enthusiasts– in making them shut up. It also proves that society has reached a certain stage in its overall wealth and health that you no longer need to produce so many children to work the farm and keep ahead of the high mortality rates of the offspring.

    But on the more nuanced side, during some of the immigration debates in Europe, some of the pro-open borders contingent were arguing that they desperately needed the hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring across the border because… fertility rates had fallen in half and they weren’t going to be able to prop up their own welfare states without the Syrians fleeing war.

    1. See my post below. I think Bailey, though he would never admit it maybe even to himself, is embracing a form of Malthusianism here. Why is fertility falling a good thing unless having too many people is an issue?

      1. My only point is that I’ve noticed that falling fertility rates are either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whom you’re talking to and what the subject is.

        The Malthusians were focused on a global “carrying capacity” about which they’ve been repeatedly proven wrong.

        However, on the technocratic side that tends to manage the cradle-to-grave subsidy programs created by modern governments in the West, the dropping populations and fertility rates suddenly become a major concern, prompting those same governments to suggest incentives for increasing birth rates and mass immigration to stave off an impending economic collapse of the pyramid scheme.

        I guess from my perspective, there is a kind of ‘economic carrying capacity’ when you have a massive and comprehensive welfare state, and that carrying capacity is essentially described as a minimum population, not a maximum. Mr. Ponzi could probably provide some advice on this.

        1. “My only point is that I’ve noticed that falling fertility rates are either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whom you’re talking to and what the subject is.”

          Depends on which cultures are reproducing more and which ones are declining in numbers.

      2. Because now we have more room for immigrants!

  5. Bailey’s constant celebration of falling fertility rates as an intrinsic good is effectively an embrace of Malthusianism. It is not that fertility rates falling is necessarily bad. It is that assuming that they are necessarily good I think requires the assumption that resources are limited such that there can be too many people. And that is straight up Malthusian bullshit.

    1. It is generally accepted that as societies become wealthier they have fewer children. So saying fertility rates are falling is saying people are getting wealthier, which isn’t a bad thing.

      1. Wealth isn’t a bad thing but Bailey is talking about happiness, which is not contingent on wealth

      2. It is generally accepted that as societies become wealthier they have fewer children.

        It’s also generally accepted that as societies grow larger and have fewer children the wealth is generally held less as goods and capital by private individuals and more as controls of virtual fiat held within and among government.

  6. Most people don’t live by the adage “I was unhappy because I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet”, they live by the adage “I was happy with my new Mercedes until my neighbor bought a new Rolls Royce”. If you’ve got a headache and an ingrown toenail and a paper cut and a big pimple on your nose and a grizzly trying to gnaw your leg off, you’ve really only got one problem to worry about. Get rid of the grizzly and suddenly you’ve got four problems you’re going to complain about. Things are a lot worse now, aren’t they?

  7. Apparently the world will never survive these deep population growth cuts.

  8. Children used to be an economic advantage, but in a world where low-skilled and no-skilled need not apply, children shift from being an economic advantage to at best an economic null.
    In a society that has some form ot formalized health care and retirement, the need for children to “look after you in your old age” largely falls apart. Paying into retirement is far cheaper than paying for school, clothes, and toys.
    In a society that employs both men and women, no one is left to care for the children except those who have opted to accept an economic disadvantage for a lifestyle choice, or the professionals, (many of whom could demand a higher salary in some other field.) This means that children are not just not earning their upkeep, but actively costing their families money they otherwise wouldn’t spend.
    Then you throw in easy access to contraception, and Darwins Drive to override self interest for the wants of the moment loses its power to keep our societies breeding, even when it costs the individual who makes that decision.

  9. One down side is the increasing number of countries which possess the means of blowing up the world, or a good portion of it, and lowering quality of life considerably for the survivors.

    1. And for all I know, private groups may be getting this capacity too.

  10. How are we going to colonize the galaxy if fertility rates keep declining?

    1. I guess we’ll have to wait until some kind of newfangled technology comes along that reverses trends, since current trends always continue forever.

  11. I’ll ask again because I didn’t get an answer above….why do fewer children mean women are exercising more choice?
    Isn’t it possible that women are just choosing differently than they were 50-60 years ago? The Democrats did not free women from slavery to their husbands in the 60’s, lets give women…and men, for that matter, more credit than that

    1. I read the Handmaid’s Tale cover to cover, so I think I know a bit better than you about women’s enslavement.

      /sarc

      1. If pre-60’s America was as bad as liberals claim, you’d think they wouldn’t have to rely so much on fiction to spread their message

        1. It’s also kinda weird that the leftist/liberal God-President was in office ’33-’45 and didn’t manage to set us on the Golden Path for even a full decade.

    2. It does seem to be correlated with women having more opportunity to do other things.

      One trend I’ve noticed in my age group is an absolute fear of children as well. Which I find interesting. My one friend is terrified. He talks so much about how he’s just afraid of everything that can go wrong. I tell him to not stress about it, kids are more resilient than people give them credit for.

      I say this as someone who is truly afflicted with mental illness, people my age are too concerned with their own neurosis.

      1. I’m sorry, BUCS, but you’re too good to be in this comment section. You seem like such a decent person that I’m resisting the urge to tell you to “gargle balls”. Damn you, BUCS

        1. Just Say’n is forced to quietly gargle his own balls by the innate decency of BUCS!

          1. Personally, I think I come off as a bit of a Polyanna on this site.

            1. Maybe, if Polyanna had an extensive and encyclopedic knowledge of the most rarefied genres of porns.

      2. I disagree with the idea that women didn’t have opportunity before the women’s lib movement. My grandmother was a chemistry teacher before she married my grandfather to raise children. I don’t think he forced her to and she wasn’t a doormat. My other grandmother was a secretary at the Pentagon and then became a schoolteacher until she had a family. I don’t think they were necessarily less happy or less free then women who now work and raise kids, especially since the latter often experience guilt, complain about work-life balance, and have to pay a large chunk of their salary toward daycare

        1. not to mention the women who think they can have kids later until their fertility takes a nosedive

      3. well your friends are probably Millennials, so it’s probably for the best that they don’t reproduce /Millennial with kid

        1. Twist: lap83 is actually a Gen Xer according to some measures! Millennial burn!

          1. And you’re actually a millennial in my eyes.

            1. Aww shucks, man, but if you’d ever met me you’d know i’m in the process of vaulting over the line between “fashionably bearded” and “grizzly old bastard.”

            2. You’re all Millennials to me.

          2. Honestly I’d rather be a Millenial who hates other Millenials. So I can feel young but act like I don’t care at the same time. Oops, did I say that aloud?

            1. One of my friends has a theory that people born between about ’78 and ’84 don’t really fit into Generation X or the Millennials. We didn’t grow up with the Internet but came of age at the same time, before it turned into a bunch of walled gardens that everyone’s mom hangs out in, and before every cultural trend turned into a mass-produced virally-distributed dubiously-commercialized meme. We were the last generation to not have cell phones as teenagers.

              It was a pretty convincing theory and i’m not really doing justice to a lot of what he said because we’d been drinking pretty hard by that point in the evening.

              1. I think one of the biggest things is generational stereotypes just aren’t that accurate.

                Sure, they have some trends, but so does almost literally any real world data group. It’s a convenient discussion template, but breaks down hard on any fine grained level.

                1. Yeah, that too. Aside from maybe a set of shared cultural experiences, the only thing definitely held in common across a given generation is that its parents were all getting it on at around the same time.

              2. One of my friends has a theory that people born between about ’78 and ’84 don’t really fit into Generation X or the Millennials. We didn’t grow up with the Internet but came of age at the same time, before it turned into a bunch of walled gardens that everyone’s mom hangs out in, and before every cultural trend turned into a mass-produced virally-distributed dubiously-commercialized meme. We were the last generation to not have cell phones as teenagers.

                Speaking as someone born in ’78, this sounds about right to me.

        2. /Millennial with kid

          If you’re like the ‘millennial with kid’s I know, the kid has you. /GenX parent

      4. Is it really fear of children or fear of what the state will do to him if his kid doesn’t conform to the state’s whims?

  12. The amazing thing is how bleak many people believe the future for humanity is. This is largely because, as Roser notes, “One key reason why we struggle to see progress in the world today is that we do not know how very bad the past was.”

    For younger people that’s probably the case. For older people (Baby Boomers, mostly) it seems like a lot of them look at the past with rose colored glasses and long for a bygone era that never really existed.

  13. The world population growth rate has also halved in the last 50 years and is just above 1 percent. That trend suggests that rapid population growth is coming to an end in this century.

    Of course, that seems to assume that rapid population growth was ever a real problem to begin with, which it wasn’t.

  14. “Rates, not totals”, guys.

  15. Fact #2: Since 1960, the fertility rate has fallen by half.

    Welfare states hardest hit. Which means the collapse of the welfare state is just around the corner, right after the starvation and mass murder.

  16. Honestly, #1 is kind of a bad thing in my mind. The more everyone else’s kids die, the less threats and competition there are for my own kids.

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