As the United States grapples with such potentially dangerous events as the fiscal cliff and sequestration, a number of the world’s poorer countries are poised for a phenomenon called the “demographic dividend.” The demographic dividend is a window of opportunity that opens in a society when variables such as changing rates of growth combine with governmental policies that make prosperity possible.
In particular, accelerated economic growth begins with changes in the age structure of a country’s population as it transitions from high to low birth and death rates. It is the combination of these rates that then affect other factors within society.
The concept is not new, and it probably came into existence when American demographer and population specialist Warren Thompson developed the “Theory of the Demographic Transition” in 1919. At that time, only a handful of western European countries, along with the U.S. and Canada, approximated the stages of population growth from close to zero (during historic times of high birth and death rates) to close to zero (because of declining death rates, followed by declining birth rates).
All human populations are presumed to have had very slow — sometimes imperceptible — growth during the first several hundred thousand years of human existence, because high birth rates were balanced by equally high death rates. After the Agricultural Revolution, beginning roughly 10,000 years ago, (depending on the technology that existed in various parts of the world) growth rates were less than 0.05 percent, worldwide...