Skip to content

r.i.c.e.

Optimal Population and Exhaustible Resource Constraints

Research, Environment1 min read

Authors: Nicholas Lawson, Dean Spears

Published in: Journal of population economics

Download Paper

Abstract:

A large literature considers the optimal size and growth rate of the human population, trading o the utility value of additional people with the costs of a larger population. In this literature, an important parameter is the social weight placed on population size; a standard result is that a planner with a larger weight on population chooses larger population levels and growth rates.

We demonstrate that this result is conditionally overturned when an exhaustible resource constraint is introduced: if the discount rate is small enough, the optimal population today decreases with the welfare weight on population size. That is, a more total-utilitarian social planner could prefer a smaller population today than a more average-utilitarian social planner. We also present a numerical illustration applied to the case of climate change, where we show that under plausible real-world parameter values, our result matters for the direction and magnitude of optimal population policy.

About

r.i.c.e. is a non-profit research organization focused on health and well-being in India. Our core focus is on children in rural north India. Our research studies health care at the start of life, sanitation, air pollution, maternal health, social inequality, and other dimensions of population-level social wellbeing.

501(c)(3) Status

Privacy Policy

Research Themes

Content by Category

© 2021 r.i.c.e.