Population Growth and Technological Progress—From a Historical View

Part of the SpringerBriefs in Population Studies book series (BRIEFSPOPULAT)


This chapter focuses on technological progress and its relationship with population growth. Although we begin with the Malthusian theory, it is important to note that Malthus did not understand the importance of technological progress in society at the time. Kremer (Q J Econ 108:681–716, 1993) and other economists have stressed that it is possible to observe a close relationship between population growth and production technology, and Boserup (The conditions of agricultural progress. Aldine Publishing Company, Chicago, 1965) has pointed out that Malthus ignored the positive consequences of population growth in the long run. We define technological progress in an economic sense and emphasize that such progress has become an engine of economic growth for the modern economy. The important question to be posed is, “Does the size of population affect technological progress?” The answer is that a large population will generate many ideas that could bring about rapid technological progress. In addition, technological progress eases the constraints triggered by population growth by increasing the production of economic resources. Furthermore, we discuss the scale effect which means that a larger population would generate a rapid growth of population by mediating technological progress. Next, in developed countries, declining fertility rates have been widely observed and identified as causing population declines in the future. This phenomenon has raised an important point to discuss concerning the relationship between technological progress and population. Lastly, we conclude that the relationship between population size and technological progress encompasses complicated mutually exclusive effects. Specifically, technological progress leads to economic prosperity, which results in reduced fertility and population growth, while population size has a positive effect on technological progress. In the appendices of this chapter, we summarize the Kremer’s theoretical model and provide a simple survey of endogenous growth theory including population dynamics.


Population Growth Total Factor Productivity Scale Effect Economic Resource Technological Progress 
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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Political Science and EconomicsMeiji UniversityChiyoda-kuJapan

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