Worries about the size and composition of the population have occupied scholars, governments, and popular discourse for more than a century. In the early 20th century, concern focused on the low fertility of social classes or ethnic groups viewed as having superior attributes. After World War II, the dominant fear was catastrophic overpopulation in poor countries. More recently, sub-replacement fertility and population aging have become salient issues in a large number of countries. These worries arise from a common source: the end of the homeostatic demographic regime of high mortality and high fertility that described human population for most of history. This lecture tells the story of this demographic transformation, including its economic, social, and cultural dimensions. It is a sprawling story that encompasses technological change, feminism, eugenics, science fiction, nationalism, the rise of the welfare state, and the private decisions of billions of individuals.
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