In the background of the immigration debate looms a larger issue: the demographic transition—or collapse—underway in the world’s wealthy economies. Contrary to 60 years of dire Malthusian warnings about overpopulation, much of the world faces a precipitous birth shortage. Across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, fertility rates have fallen well below replacement level, usually considered an average of 2.1 children per woman. America’s fertility rate now stands at 1.67.

Not only are people in wealthy economies having fewer children, they’re also living longer. The share of the US population that is over age 65 is projected to grow steadily for at least the next four decades. Developed economies across the world are turning into geriatric wards in which there are literally too few young hands to empty the bed pans. Aging societies that can’t produce enough young workers face long-term economic stagnation in the form of labor shortages, persistent inflation, sluggish growth, stalled innovation, and general decay. 

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