WMU News

Speaker to deliver a dose of good news about the world

Nov. 26, 2003

KALAMAZOO--How did earth survive the population bomb?

The earth has added another three billion people since 1960, yet research shows improvements in per-capita food consumptions and large declines in poverty rates in many parts of the developing world.

It's a topic that fascinates Dr. David Lam, a professor of economics and Senior Research Scientist in the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan. Lam, who will speak at Western Michigan University as part of the Werner Sichel Lecture-Seminar Series, will discuss "How the World Survived the Population Bomb: An Economic Perspective," at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3, in Room 3508 of Knauss Hall. His talk is free and open to the public.

"It's not surprising that there were concerns in the 1960s that the predicted population explosion would put enormous pressure on the world's economics resources," Lam says. "While poverty rates remain unacceptably high in many countries, with especially disappointing progress in Africa, the global picture of the last half of the twentieth century is a surprising combination of unprecedented population growth at the same time as rapid declines in poverty occurred."

Lam's talk will be about "big picture" issues.

"It will be a very accessible discussion of the enormous demographic changes that have taken place in the last fifty years," he says. Aided by many interesting visual aides, he will address the tremendous decline of birth rates in developing countries and the progress made in reducing poverty. He will also address specific countries, such as Brazil, where much of his research has been conducted.

"The country is an interesting case study, because it had a very rapid decline in birth rates without any government-sponsored or nationally led family planning effort," Lam says. The fertility rate in Brazil is now about the same as in the United States. It's a case that is far from unique, as fertility rates in developing countries have fallen faster than anyone could have predicted in the 1960s."

Lam's research focuses on the interaction of economics and demography in developing countries. He has been widely published, and has served as consultant or advisor to the World Bank, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the United Nations Population Division, and the South African Human Sciences Research Council. His current research includes comparative analysis of income inequality in Brazil and South Africa.

The 2003-04 Werner Sichel Lecture-Seminar Series features six internationally known economists who focus on this year's theme, "The Economics of Sustainable Development." The series named for a current faculty member and longtime chairperson of WMU's Department of Economics, is co-sponsored by that department, WMU's College of Arts and Sciences and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

Media contact: Matt Gerard, 269 387-8400, matthew.gerard@wmich.edu

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