Field of Science

Hans Rosling wins again

Not only is Hans Rosling one of the very best speakers on TED, he has also, appropriately just changed my mind.

He has just convinced me that up until right now I have been wrong about the effect of increased medical care in the poorest countries. I had been telling myself that the effect of improved healthcare, leading to lowered child mortality rates, would only work to increase the rate of world population growth even more. But in this talk he makes it clear, I think, that the effect of lowering child mortality in the poorest nations is actually to decrease the rate of growth, because - never mind what the actual mechanism is - clearly the data shows that once child mortality decreases, what always follows is that the average number of children people have drops, too.

See for yourself.

The role of the west is to become the foundation of the modern world. Nothing more, nothing less. But it's a very important role. Do it well and get used to it.


  1. Hey Bjorn,

    I haven't watched this video yet (but I will). This phenomenon where increased wealth brings smaller families is called the Demographic-economic paradox.

    I believe it is a larger collection of reasons than just child mortality. As countries become more prosperous, there is improved access to health care and literacy, but also to things like contraceptives, alternate modes of entertainment(television was initially promoted by the Indian government as a population control measure), women being able to make their child-related decisions and more couples putting their careers before social pressures (to have >1 child).

    An interesting exercise for me is to compare fertility rate, family size and GDP per capita among different Indian states. It bears this out beautifully.

  2. Rosling has a more recent talk, too, about this topic connected with the Millennium Development Goals that uses his kick-ass animated stats. Watch the connection between infant mortality and family size right before your eyes--driven, as he points out, by *female education*. Outstanding! I posted it, but you can go right to TED and watch it:))


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