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The Planet

OVERPOPULATION LINKED TO U.S. PROSPERITY DECLINE

CUPERTINO Sept 13, 1995 -- The American dream is fading due to U.S. population growth. That's what a new analysis of census data shows which compares human density and housing affordability.

At first glance there's no apparent correlation between the 10% population density increase and the 22% home affordability decline which occurred during the 80's. But when compared on a state by state basis, a trend emerges: higher population densities strongly correlate with bigger housing affordability gaps.

"What this means is that people are finding it much harder to afford homes because of population growth," says Howard Johnson, editor of KZPG (an internet based population news and discussion service). He asks, "Could this link between population and declining real prosperity be the smoking gun of the overpopulation issue, and will it be the salient fact that will finally drive the population issue into the main stream of public debate?"

Owning a home has been held as one of the cornerstones of the American Dream, and has generally been the single best investment a family could make. But home ownership in high density communities has long been known to be less affordable than in low density communities. From Johnson's analysis, it's clear that this widening affordability gap is occurring not just in high density communities, but all across the U.S. Professor Julian Simon and others have argued that as demand increases, markets will respond with sufficient increase in supply. But although there was clearly increased supply, it did not keep pace with increased demand. Rather, it appears the standard principle of scarcity prevailed: in a free market with limited resources and increasing demand, prices increased. Johnson says, "No other reasonable principle has been found to explain this correlation."

But many say there's nothing that can be done about population growth. When asked if U.S. population control was possible or even feasible without discrimination or forced abortion, Johnson said, "It used to be good to have 3, 4, 5, or more children, but now it's hurting us. U.S. population growth is about half from large families and half from immigration. The way to lower family size is to simply talk to people about overpopulation. We must reaffirm that it is, and should be, every family's right to have as many children as they want, but at the same time we must explain that it's in everybody's best interest to help curb human populations by making responsible family size decisions." Johnson says he calls this population education", rather than population control, because it's voluntary and based on people making informed decisions.

Johnson also believes we need to ask our government for less immigration, both legal and illegal, "Otherwise," he says, "our small family gains will be in vain."

--- Notes --------------------------------------------------------------

The data used was from the 1980 and 1990 U.S. Census data obtained from the Missouri State Census Data gopher, at world wide web address:

gopher://gopher.coin.missouri.edu/11/reference/census/us/

The correlation factor found was .75 (on a scale of 0 to 1, with 1 being perfect correlation, and 0 being no correlation).

Because this correlation relies on relative values which are averaged over many years it's independent of inflation and many other economic factors.


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