CID Working Paper No. 15

Demographic Change and Economic Growth in Asia

David E. Bloom, David Canning, and Pia N. Malaney

May 1999


This paper examines the links between demographic change and economic growth in Asia during 1965-90. We show that the overall rate of population growth had little effect on economic growth, but that changes in life expectancy, age structure, and population density have had a significant impact on growth rates. We also find strong evidence of feedback from higher income to population change via lower fertility, though a significant component of the demographic changes appears to have been exogenous. Our results suggest that the demographic transition can act both as a catalyst and as an accelerator mechanism, and that demographic effects can explain most of East Asia’s economic "miracle". East Asia benefited from a "virtuous spiral" of income growth and fertility decline, while South Asia seems to remain caught in a low-level population-income trap.

Keywords: population, fertility, economic growth

JEL codes: J10, O40

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