Bryan Caplan  

Indian Fertility: A Bet With John Nye

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I think that bad economic policy, not "overpopulation," is India's main economic problem.  But whatever you think about the social effects of population growth, it's clear that Indian fertility is sharply declining.  I expect this rapid decline to continue, but my colleague John Nye isn't convinced.  As a result, we've agreed to the following bet:

If India's (Total Fertility Rate in 2032 + Total Fertility Rate in 2033)/2<2.0,

John owes me $200.

If India's (Total Fertility Rate in 2032 + Total Fertility Rate in 2033)/22.0,

I owe John $100.

We've agreed to use the average of the World Bank and United Nations estimates of TFR.

Hopefully I'll lose!

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (9 to date)
razib writes:

hm. first thought is that you win hands down. but the most backward of indian states (UP & bihar) with very high TFR are growing. much of south india is already sub-replacement. so the question isn't india, it's whether the two most populous northern states will transition from being hindu pakistans to tamil nadu.

Thorfinn writes:

TFR in UP/Bihar is down to 3.6/3.7 from 4.8/4.5 in 2000 .

Bihar and UP are going through the same demographic transition that tamil nadu did. Governance is improving, growth rates have picked up from nothing to 8-10% a year. Bihar, a state of 100m, has just one city larger than 500k, but urbanisation is happening rapidly, and Bihar's urban TFR is already 2.7. They're on track to be TN today in ~30 years.

India is less densely population than the Netherlands, Aruba, or South Korea. It looks overpopulated because GDP is low, not because the number of capitas is high.

Steve Miller writes:

$200 in 2012 dollars, or just $200 in 2034 dollars? If the latter, why not just bet one lunch against two?

Anyway, I'm pretty sure you'll win. I've been looking pretty closely at fertility trends around the world and I can't see how India's fertility rate would stop falling before it gets (and stays) below 2. Unless a critical mass of Indians become Caplanians, (observant) Catholics, or both!

Bryan as an Indian Let me advice you to immediately cancel this bet, if possible. You are missing out on some key idiosyncratic information. There is no way India's TFR will go down below 2 where 2.1 I think is the population sustaining level.

The reason is very simple. The Muslim population of India has not seen substantial drops in TFR and there are no headwinds which suggest that this will drop substantially. In fact the TFR is guaranteed to come down to 2.0 or nearabouts for the Hindu+non muslim population by that time. But the 20%+ (in 2032) muslim population will easily cover up for this loss. This is a well known fact and quite clear from the census data.

I am saying subtract $100 20 years from the future and adjust your consumption accordingly.

PS: A guaranteed Black Swan event - Nuclear Attack or a new infectious disease is inevitable in India. But I would be surprised if it happened before 2032.

Andrew Norman writes:

India's key issue is corruption within their system. While it can be said that most countries have this problem, India's is exceptionally bad.

India's focus is on managing excessive kickback rather than output and their is no political will to change this anytime soon.

Ritwik writes:


Did you want to bet on TFr being 2.0, or being on the replacement population level? I think you'll lose this bet on the terms that it exists, even if you win it in the spirit in which I presume it was made.

Replacement TFR is 2.1 in developed economies. Across the world, it is 2.33. In under-developed economies it ranges between 2.5 and 3.3. Over the course of this bet, I find it hard that India's replacement TFR will drop below 2.3, which will itself create massive resistance for actual TFR dropping lower than that.

A better bet would have been on peak population, with 1.5 billion as the dividing line.

gwern writes:

Copied the bet here if anyone cares.

Steve Sailer writes:

I certainly hope you win.

Population typically keeps rising for 40-50 years after the TFR drops to replacement, so, if you win your bet, that would mean India's population will keep rising until about, say, 2060-2075.

Prabhat writes:

northern states such as u.p, bihar, rajasthan and m.p are not showing much progress in declining the total fertility rate (tfr) rate ...

if they do ... subsequently india's tfr will come down !!
as they are the most populous and densely populated states !!

[case changed to lower case. Please do not use all caps.--Econlib Ed.]

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