Optimal population policy

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1972-05
Authors
Arthur, W. Brian
McNicoll, Geoffrey
East-West Population Institute
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Honolulu, HI : East-West Population Institute, East-West Center
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This paper investigates the notion of optimality in population policy through the use of simple analytical and numerical examples. A control theoretic framework is adopted which does not restrict the analysis to a particular criterion of welfare nor to particular assumptions about the economy or population. Given an arbitrarily specified index of societal welfare and a set of assumptions on underlying economic and population dynamics, the corresponding policies can be deduced that maximize over time this measure of welfare. The necessary conditions for the solution of the problem provide insights into the tradeoffs inherent in maintaining optimality. In addition, the analysis allows the isolation of the factors and parameters to which the optimal policy in a given situation is most sensitive.

The very simple models discussed in the paper serve to stress the importance of the ethical assumptions of population policy. They suggest that whether a society has a high or a low aversion, to crowding or environmental degradation has relatively little impact on its optimal population policy compared to its valuation on the welfare of future generations and of potential entrants to the society.
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For more about the East-West Center, see http://www.eastwestcenter.org/
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53 p.
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