Saturday, March 10, 2012

Demographic Revolution in the Middle East

Nicholas Eberstadt, at Foreign Policy.  Such developments are never as media-sexy as political turmoil and such, but the implications could be staggering.
The quiet revolution in fertility now unfolding across the Islamic world is (so to speak) pregnant with implications for the future: it portends a radical revision of population projections for many countries; an unexpectedly rapid aging of many now youthful societies; and a new outlook for economic development in societies whose accomplishments to date in this realm have so often been disappointing. But the fact that this hidden-in-plain-sight revolution has come as such a surprise should emphasize just how little we really understood about the societies beneath the frozen political autocracies that controlled so many Islamic populations over the past generation.
Indeed, the standard measures of development simply don't explain all the great demographic changes underway outside the mature, industrialized countries. In particular, proponents of purely material models of development are confronted by the awkward fact that the fertility decline over the past generation has been more rapid in the Arab states than virtually anywhere else on earth. Yet few people disagree that those same countries have exceptionally poor development records over the same period.
For over a generation, bien pensants in the international community have been sagely informing us that "development is the best pill." If this were really true, however, the great Middle Eastern fertility revolution could never have taken place. A new world is, quite literally, being born before our eye -- and we would all do well to pay much closer attention to its significance.
Read the rest here.

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