it was Report only South Korea’s birth rate has hit a record low:

Korean women were estimated, based on 2021 data, to have an average of just 0.81 children in their lifetime, down from 0.84 a year earlier, the statistics office said Wednesday.

A graph in the Bloomberg article provides some context:

People need to stop talking about Japan’s birth rate and start talking about Korea.

The Highest fertility rate in the world In Niger, the number per woman is 6.7. Of course, South Korea and Niger are different in all kinds of ways. But it is worth noting that South Korea’s lifetime fertility rate was about 5 per woman in the 1950s, when Korea was as poor as sub-Saharan Africa.

If you talk to people in Korea, they’ll say the birth rate is low because Koreans can’t afford big families. It is somewhat strange that (since the 1960s) South Korea has grown richer at a faster rate than any other country in the world. How could Koreans afford large families in the 1950s? How can residents of Niger afford large families? Yes, you could revise the argument to reflect the rising expectations of the Korean middle class, but it still seems somehow inadequate. That’s too simple an answer—it doesn’t explain the huge gap with, for example, equally prosperous Japan.

There’s another area where Korea is a world leader – putting pressure on students to do well in school in order to get accepted into good universities (and ultimately get good jobs). To maximize their children’s average success, not total success.

I sometimes wonder if a highly competitive culture is involved in some sort Zero sum game Arms race, trying to do better in arbitrary academic tests to stay one step ahead of their neighbors. It seems futile.

And yet, I just said that South Korea has had the fastest growing economy in the world since the 1960s, so it’s not clear that the relentless drive to succeed is a bad thing. But perhaps even a good thing can be pushed too far. How important are extra hours of study? in the margin?

People often like to compare the education systems of Sweden and Finland. On conventional measures such as test scores, Finland’s system is more successful than Sweden’s. Swedes seem to focus more on making students happy.

But there is more to life than test scores. For example, Sweden the rich Compared to Finland, despite its less competitive education system. It is also worth noting that Sweden has a high birth rate. Note that the blue color is Sweden Fertility Island In red-orange in Finland and Norway:

(Justice, the gap between Swedish and Finnish education systems has contracted in recent years.)

I’m agnostic about optimal fertility rates, and I’m also agnostic about what makes people happy. Is it a good thing for students to study hard? Is more fertility a good thing? Does higher GDP per capita make us happier (once we are a developed country)? I don’t see any answer to this question as obvious. And yet I see other pundits talking about what is best with a high degree of confidence.

Rest assured. Israel is a case to think about. Secular Jews have about 2 children per woman, while the most highly religious groups have about 6.6 children per woman, compared to residents of Niger. This explains why Israel An outlier among developed countries.

Sci-fi books often feature Earthlings exploring the universe in the year 3000 But I never see sci-fi books where most of the starship crew are Amish people, Haredi Jews, and Africans.

Seriously, it is foolish to extrapolate current exponential growth rates, as a constant unpredictable change in fertility.


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