US Birth Rates Plummet To 40-Year Low

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Well, it looks like there’s something in the water in the US and it ain’t little blue pills. The recent US Census data shows a 40-year low in the birth rate – about 1.6 per woman.

With the birth rate well below the replacement level, there could be huge economic implications that follow. There are plenty of other countries facing similar demographic issues, so the US has plenty of case studies to read up on.

This isn’t the kiss of death quite yet, but it won’t be easy path forward. Between meaningful immigration reform and policies supporting young families to have more children, the US has to make some big changes if they want to stop that demographic timebomb.

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Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here. Coming to you from Colorado in between the snows. it is April 25th. And the news. You’re not gonna get this for, like, a week. I know, I’m sorry. the news today is that, the United States Census has come out with the most recent information on population structure for the United States, and it indicates that our birth rate has dropped to a 40 year low of about 1.6 per woman. 

2.1 is generally considered to be replacement level. And if you add in increases in the death rate in the United States from things like Covid, which killed about a million, 4 million, 3,000,004 people, as well as the rapidly aging and therefore passing the baby boomers. And then on top of that, the opiate opioid epidemic. We really need to be closer to 2.3 or 2.4. 

It’s just too cold. The population where it is. the only other way that you can plug that gap was with immigration. Let’s just say that that is a topic that is somewhat hot at the moment. what does this mean? Well, in the short term, from a demographic point of view, short term is 20 years. From a short term point of view, this is actually pause div for economic growth, because if you have a lot of people aged roughly 20 to 45, which is where the millennials are right now and they don’t have a lot of kids, then the money that they would spend on schooling and buying a bigger house, they can use 

for more furnishings and more travel and more restaurants, and more high octane growth that feeds through the system and has a multiplier effect. this is something that we saw in China in the 2000. This is something we saw in Europe in the 1990s. and you can get some really high quality growth out of it. The problem is that you only do that once. 

And if your birth rate never recovers, then after 20 years, you start eating into your working age population, and after 50 years, you start eating into your skilled worker population as well as your tax base. Then eventually you’ll get to a place like where the Germans and the Koreans are now, where this has now been going on for 60 years. 

And so this is the last ten year period that we basically have a modern Korean or German economy, unless something radical shifts more traditionally, having a low birth rate just means that you’re going to have fewer people available to work in the future and fewer people to maintain the system in the future. Now, for the United States, we have a very atypical demographic history compared to really everyone else in the rest of the world. 

compared to the rest of the industrialized world, most of the other industrialized countries are far more urbanized than we are. So they started this collapse below replacement levels not just 20 years ago, but 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, in some cases 80. And so it has a lot of steam built up for us. The decline really below, replacement is only about a 10 to 15 year process, and it’s been very slow even then. 

In addition, because the United States was part of the second cadre of countries to industrialize, we have seen our birth rates go down. But because the United States is such a big place with so many small towns and such huge options for suburbs, it’s declined a lot more slowly than everywhere else. So if you look at the data and we’ll throw a chart up here, you’ll see that the United States has been kind of hugging around that two, 2.1, area for the last 40 years, whereas a lot of other countries that are kind of in are pure class, plunged below it long ago. 

that doesn’t mean that we are doomed to follow them if Americans keep aging at their current rate. If the birth rate keeps dropping at its current rate, we’re not going to be facing a Korean or a German style problem within the next 40 years, and probably closer to 50. so while this isn’t a great sign, it’s not like we’re about to jump off a cliff. 

the other group of countries, the developing countries, are very different. these are the countries that, for the most part, did not develop the technologies of industrialization. It was thrust upon them. So you took a century, a century, a half of technical development in the West and in Japan, and in the course of under 30 years implemented it throughout most of what we now think of as the developing world. 

And so they went directly from the farms to condos and in, in doing so saw their birth rates just plunge horrendously. And you can see that on the chart. China, of course, is the country that industrialized the most quickly got the growth boom from that, from not having a young generation. and now is well past the point of no return and is very close to having one of the lowest birth rates in the world. 

So is there anything we can do about this? Well, there’s two things. The first is you can have meaningful immigration reform in order to bring in more people, but to bring in the scale of people that were required to tilt this, it would be pretty extreme. the second thing you can do is encourage policies that make it easier for younger families to have more kids. 

Part of the economic growth story of places like Texas the last 30 years is that the land is cheap, the electricity is cheap, the food is cheap, and taxes are low. So if you’re a young family starting out, it’s easier to have a house with a yard and raise children. If you’re going to do that in San Francisco, whoo hoo hoo! 

Or New York. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Raising kids in a condo is no fun at all. one other little thing that I just kind of throw in there so that people understand that everything has a consequence over the same time that US birth rates have dropped since 1990. We’ve also seen the teen pregnancy rate drop by roughly half, and there is a direct correlation between those two things. 

So saying you need more kids makes a lot of sense how you get more kids. That’s what really matters. 

Can High Birth Rates Solve Demographic Problems for Young Countries?

I often talk about the importance of demographics for countries, but do high birth rates always equate to population growth?

In countries like Yemen and Nigeria, high birth rates can look promising, but we need to consider other factors before we start celebrating. The two big ones are infant mortality and life expectancy. As countries begin to industrialize, they start to reap the benefits of improved healthcare, driving up survival rates for children and adults alike. The story is all rainbows and butterflies so far.

However, if these advances in healthcare are heavily reliant on imported technologies, any disruption to international trade could prove devastating. The bottom line is that high and growing birth rates are great, but sustainable population growth requires a bit more work than just popping out some kids.

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First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hey everyone. Peter Zeihan here. Coming to you from Colorado. We’re taking a and from lost a limb in the story. Anyway, we’re taking the entry from the Ask Peter Forum. It lets demographics. The question is I talk a lot about declining demographics and the impact that’s going to have. But what about countries that have sky high birthrates? Is this a good is this a bad? 

Is this another thing? The two that come to mind are Yemen and Nigeria, both of which have birth rates that are just ridiculously high. How sustainable is this? What’s the impact? Good question. I generally look at birth rates when I’m looking at more advanced economies where the industrial technologies have been in place for decades. When you’re talking about the younger economies were industrial is Asian is more recent. 

There’s a couple other statistics you need to look at. The first is infant mortality, and especially child mortality under five years of age. See, how likely is it that a child that who’s bored is going to make it to five? And then second is life expectancy overall. You see what happens when a country starts to industrialize is they don’t just get concrete and pavement and buildings and rebar and electricity. 

They also get vaccines and medical care. And this drastically decreases the death rate among the young and drastically increases the average age of mortality among the older folks. So what we’re seeing in Yemen and especially in Nigeria is a steady inroads of these new technologies into the population. So it’s not just that the birth rate is high. Oftentimes for these countries that are early in the early industrializing period, the growth rate is very high. 

The question is whether or not the children survive. And then the question is whether the adults survive. So take the example of China. From roughly 1985 until roughly 2015, the population doubled. But almost all of that population increase wasn’t from organic birth rate. It was because people lived longer. The lifespan basically doubled in that same period. Now, these gains are real. 

These people are more productive. But you only get those sorts of gains once. And now that China has basically wrested all of the gains along Djibouti, it can’t out of the system because they’re coming against the upper level what humans are capable of today. There’s no one to replace them. So even if nothing goes wrong in the system, no financial crisis, no war, no agricultural crisis. 

You’re still looking at a population collapse because people can’t live any longer than they are. And for the last 50 years, people have not been having children. So that inverted funnel, the bottom just goes up and sucks away the entire population. Yemen and Nigeria at a much earlier stage of this process, there’s nothing to say that they’re condemned to the the Chinese end result. 

But keep in mind that in the case of these two countries in particular, most notably Yemen. But all of the technologies that allow them to live longer come from a different continent. And so if anything happens to international trade, you should expect infant mortality to shoot up and life expectancy to collapse. And then they just get sandwiched in between. 

It’s not merely as dark of a story as what we’ve got going on in China, but it’s not exactly a great one. If you’re going to have life expectancy and if you’re going to have infant mortality, be pause, have aspects of your society. You need to be able to be sure that you can produce the technologies that allow it to happen in the first place. 

Otherwise, you’re just as dependent on the rest of the world as if you imported 100% of your oil.

How Shrinking Populations Determine Economic Growth

We tend to overlook the dynamics of demography and its economic impact, so let’s take a step back and break down demographics by generation and how that will dictate the future of our economies.

There are standard behaviors for each age group. You’re born as a ward, but are cheap to take care of. Then you start to become more productive and consume a lot. Then you age into a situation where you’re providing taxes. And then you revert back to your old ways and become a leech on the economy again. Fairly cyclical and predictable.

So in rapidly aging populations like Europe, Korea, Japan and parts of Africa, once you tip that scale towards people consuming more capital than they are producing…you can imagine how well that plays out. There are certain situations where population shifts could benefit an economy, but there’s no silver lining to deep population decline.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hey everybody Peter Zeihan here coming to you from snowy Colorado today. We’re taking an entry from the Ask Peter column on overpopulation and under population a specifically. The question is, Peter, you talk a lot about population and the negative economic consequences of it. But if we are entering a world where there’s a lot of environmental concern and damage, doesn’t slimming down the population actually argue that we could be headed towards a better world?

In addition, in general, is this going to mean that there’s more resources available for everybody else? Wouldn’t that mean we’re going to have a degree of economic growth that is qualitatively different than what came before? And, you know, there’s some there’s something to that argument. But the problem is that assumes that we lose five, ten, 15, 20%. Pick your number across the world.

Equally of every age group of every country and every ethnicity. That’s not what’s going to happen. So before I go into the nuts and bolts of it, let me kind of give you the overview. As a rule, people under age 18 only can assume things like education, a little bit of health care. They don’t contribute to the working economy.

People aged 18 to 45, these are the folks that are having kids and buying homes and going to school. It’s very heavy consumption. Most of the stuff that you will consume in your lifetime, the greatest proportion of your consumption will happen while you’re raising your kids, which as a rule, ends between 45 and 50 from 45 to 5065.

These are your mature workers. These are the people who are playing, paying lots and lots of taxes. They’re saving for retirement. They’re generating the investment that drives the private sector. And then when you turn 65, you’re still consuming, but your consumption changes dramatically to things like health care and a little bit of leisure. But you’re still occupying your home.

But your tax bill goes way down and now you start drawing pensions and health care benefits that drive government commitment to you through the roof. So you start out being a ward but not being very expensive. You move into being very productive in a lot of consumption. You age into a situation where you’re providing taxes and then eventually age to the point where you’re just this giant sucking sound.

Instead, in the advanced world. We’re not just dealing with the population. We’re dealing with very, very rapid aging. So the population structure for, say, Europe or Korea, Japan in just 15 years is going to be a big bulge of people who have retired but not died. And then a very, very small number of working age adults and even fewer children.

It’s a very different pattern because old people. Let me rephrase that. People of advanced age consume goods, but also consume a huge amount of tax take and health care. And so they are a net drain on the system instead of tax payers like they were in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties and early sixties. So the pressure on the system is massive.

A good thing. A good example. I can give you a how this imbalance really doesn’t work out is if you look at sub-Saharan Africa, especially southern Africa, during the AIDS epidemic, you had an absolute gutting of the population structure of people roughly aged 18 to 45, leaving you with mature workers and societies where the mature workers weren’t all that skilled and then no one to raise the kids.

And so the block of people 18 to 45. Those are the people who do most of the work, pay a lot of the taxes and absolutely raise the children for the next generation. And we lost their consumption at the same time. So a lot of these countries south of Congo basically faced a 25 year period of economic just despair as their population balance changed.

The part of the world where we’re probably going to be seen that this happened most dramatically. Well, let me give you two. The first one is East Asia. These are places that have seen absolutely massive increases in health care and longevity over the last 50 years. So, for example, I believe the Koreans are now the longest live people in the world, which means that you’re going to have these massive, massive aged populations sucking the government dry while there’s no one down below to do the work, much less raise children.

The other chunk is the Orthodox world, where a combination of the post-Cold War shocks and alcoholism and a poor diet are hollowing out the working age population. Before we get to the point where we have a population collapse, and these are two very different economic models that really don’t go anywhere particularly positive. But there is a lot of nuance and difference between the two.

In the case of East Asia, assuming for the moment that we don’t have an energy or trade breakdown big, if you’re looking at a general degradation of the states ability to function. In the case of Central Europe, you’re instead looking at scene wedges of populations that are actually going to benefit quite a bit from this because if you lose everyone in the thirties, but you still have people in your fifties, you still the tax base, you still have the work and the economic inequality that will erupt in that sort of environment suggests a significant political challenge.

So everyone has their own story, but it’s really hard to make the case that deep population has a silver lining and the environmental case. Keep in mind that if people age, they’re still consuming. You’ve just lost the younger generation that can pay the taxes and generate the investment that’s necessary to maybe transition to something that isn’t based on oil and coal.

So there’s really no upside here. There are just flavors of downside.

My Latest Interview on the NAIOP Podcast: Inside CRE

For those looking for some longer format content, here’s a recent interview from the NAIOP Podcast: Inside CRE.

I chatted with Christopher Ware about current U.S. demographic shifts, how the labor force is changing, and why now is the best time for businesses to hire and borrow. I also dive into China’s precipitous population decline, how the cost of manufactured goods will increase, and why we need to double the size of the industrial plant in North America.

I encourage you to tune in if you want a well-rounded, long-form discussion.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Mexican Demographics: Where Are All the Kids?

Most of the developing world has relatively similar demographics…the defining characteristic being a boatload of kids. And until recently, Mexico was no exception to that.

The first chart shows Mexico’s demographics before the new data was released. The only thing of note is the drop-off around age 25, where Mexico starts to move from a pyramid to a column shape. This is essentially a warning sign that if nothing changes, there will be a demographic collapse down the road.

The second chart shows Mexico’s demographics with the new data. Where did all the kids go? Well, a combination of the global financial crisis, COVID, and drug wars made people a tad less interested in raising kids. On top of that, America has shifted to a closed border system, which forced Mexican families to move to the US full-time instead of sending the men over for seasonal work.

This isn’t the nail in the coffin for Mexico, but they must change things up. And for the Americans, they best start treating their Mexican population like the precious resource it has become.


Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:
 
First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.
 
Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.
 
And then there’s you.
 
Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S UKRAINE FUND

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China’s Labor Problem: Youth Unemployment

Coming to you from Colorado’s very own Stonehenge out in the Lost Wilderness. Today’s new factoid is that youth unemployment in China is higher than in Italy (in percentage terms).

For context, Italy had the worst economic profile in Europe and has averaged negative economic growth for decades. If China’s unemployment resembles Italy’s, it is a very, very bad sign. Let’s break this down in the context of manufacturing.

Phase 1. Everyone is reshoring and pulling investments from China. Young people are pursuing IT jobs instead of manufacturing jobs. The problem is that China is a closed system that sucks at all things tech.

Phase 2. Xi’s cult of personality has ensured that China’s labor force won’t be able to develop into a value-add or tech-based system. Meaning everything will get significantly worse, and there’s not much hope of it getting better.

Phase 3. Remember the last time something like this happened in the Chinese system? We ended up with the Tiananmen Square protests. While that triggered the change in the political system we see today, Xi’s wiped away any opportunity for such change to happen now.

When a disconnect like this happens in the employment system, it inevitably translates over to the economic system. I’m not suggesting that this is the end, but this is how ends begin…


Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:
 
First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.
 
Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.
 
And then there’s you.
 
Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S UKRAINE FUND

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Demographics Part 10: Problems in The Middle East

Coming to you from Milford Sound in New Zealand.

The demographic situation in the Middle East can be explained by three factors: water, oil, and food. Water prevented the population from expanding. Oil generated the capital needed to industrialize and help the population grow. Food security will ruin all of this.

The Middle East doesn’t have a ton of moisture, so most populations remained relatively small and geographically concentrated. This kept demographics in the traditional pyramidal structure. Once oil was discovered, these populations had the money to industrialize. This enabled Middle Eastern populations to grow beyond the land’s carrying capacity.

As the population expands, you naturally have more mouths to feed. The only way to sustain a growing population is through imports and subsidies. While Middle Eastern countries have retained their pyramidal demographic structures, these populations have become increasingly unstable.

Since the Middle East is so dependent upon globalization, any disruptions to the global system could turn catastrophic. Combine a potential food crisis with wealth inequality and political instability, and the degree of civil breakdown in the Middle East could be devastating.

Prefer to read the transcript of the video? Click here


Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:
 
First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.
 
Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.
 
And then there’s you.
 
Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S UKRAINE FUND

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S EFFORTS GLOBALLY


TRANSCIPT

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here. Coming to you from Milford Sound, one of my favorite places on the planet. Still in New Zealand. Today we’re going to do the most recent of the demographics series, specifically focusing on the Middle East. Now, the key thing to remember about the entire swath of territory between roughly Kuwait and Algeria. So that whole stretch – Northeast Africa, all the way into the Persian Gulf region – is that there’s not a lot going on from a moisture point of view. Most of these cultures are centered around oases or narrow river valleys. The Tigris and Euphrates in many places, the entire coastal plain is less than ten miles thick. And the coastal plain in places like Libya look very, very similar. Egypt doesn’t even have water on its coastal plain. It’s just the Nile. So you get these very, very dense population patterns on a very, very concentrated footprint. And the carrying capacity of the land is very, very low. And it wasn’t until the 1900s when you could introduce things like artificial fertilizer that you really got a very dense population even within that zone. So this is an area that was among the last parts of the world to enter the industrial era. And so you had kind of a classic pyramidal formation for the population density until relatively recently in their history.

Okay. Where was I? There are some exceptions. In northern Algeria, you’ve got a much wider coastal plain. So agriculture is more favorable there. Obviously the Nile Valley and Mesopotamia, places that are still desert, but they have irrigation figured the places between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers. Obviously going back to antiquity. These have had a lot of people. But the general point when it comes to industrial agriculture stands, you can have a certain concentration and then you just kind of stop to be in the desert, which means that these are some of the last areas in the world to experience industrialization, artificial fertilizers, mechanized agriculture, that sort of thing. And so they don’t, they just have never historically reached the level of population density that you’re able to achieve in, say, the Western world or the East Asian world. Now, what that means is that there’s been a hard population cap on all of these regions up until today, until one thing changed. Oil, whether it’s in Algeria or Libya or Egypt or Iraq or Iran or Saudi Arabia. Once oil became part of the equation, the income potential for these regions expanded by more than an order of magnitude in some cases, almost literally overnight, certainly within a decade. And what that has allowed is these populations to expand beyond the carrying capacity of the land. In the case of Egypt, Cotton contributed well. So these countries could all bring in food and sell the oil to pay for it and then generate a very, very different population matrix.

And we’re back. All right. So what this means is the countries have had it. All these places have a traditional pyramid going back to antiquity and then as we hit industrialization because of oil and the food just kept coming, they were able to maintain very high birth rates. They were no longer doing this with domestic food production, but instead with imported food. So the pyramid has stayed. It’s just gotten broader and broader, broader and broader because most of these countries have food subsidies in order to maintain political tranquility. But when the food is cheap, but you’re not producing it yourself, we get more and more people, but it eventually becomes more and more unstable from a demographic point of view. And now, whether you’re in Algeria or Egypt or Iraq, and especially in places like, say, Lebanon or Libya, you’ve seen the populations increase by a factor of four or five, even six or seven over the time since 1945, while food production has gone stagnate or in many cases like in Egypt, actually gone negative as we switched over to things like citrus and especially cotton. Which means these are the parts of the world that are now most vulnerable to anything that happens with globalization, because if anything impacts their ability to export their non staple food products and import wheat, you get a population crash. It’ll probably be worse in places like Libya, where food production has maybe doubled since 1945, but population has increased by a factor of seven or eight. And in Egypt, where a lot of the wheat has gone away and it’s been replaced with cotton and citrus since a population has boomed. And now, even if they switch all the food production back to wheat, you still would have a 50% shortage. And the ability of local food production in order to support the local population. So these places have seen some of the greatest expansions in population ever in human history and we’re not too far away from them experiencing some  population crashes in human history. What we’re about to see as the global population sinks in is a degree of famine that is absolutely unprecedented and is likely to be even far more extreme than what we’re about to see people in china.

And so remember when you got a pure pyramidal population structure with lots of people under age 40, in that sort of situation, you’re going to have high growth because of the consumption, high inflation because the consumption and not a lot of productive capacity, because you don’t have a lot of skilled workers that are age 40 to 65. You also don’t have a lot of capital. And so these societies had a hard time lifting themselves out of poverty, except when it comes to things like oil sales, which is then usually the province of the state that doesn’t generate the sort of velocity of capital that is necessary for good infrastructure, for good education, and for all the other things that we kind of celebrate as the norm in the first world. It also means that you have a lot of young people who don’t really have a stake in the system because they don’t control the wealth that’s controlled by the sheiks and the princes at the top. So you tend to get very politically unstable systems. And if you add in the coming food crisis, the degree of civil great down that is possible in this, these areas are few. And for those of you who consider yourself students of history, if you look back and the rise and collapsed rise of cloud and the rising collapse of city states and empires throughout this entire region, this is starting to sound a little bit familiar. This may be where humanity got its start, but it’s also capable of some of the most catastrophic civilizational collapses. And we’re going to see that next decade or two.

Oh, yeah. One more thing. On yeah we relocated to Te Anau. I know there is a unique demographic pattern for some countries in the Middle East that is largely based on their intense wealth, because once you get to a certain level of income, you start paying people to do other things. So, for example, if you’re in the United States in your top 1%, you probably have a housekeeper. Well, you carry that into the Middle East where you’ve got this oil and natural gas income and you’re surrounded by places with a pyramidal demographic structure, and you start hiring people to do everything. So it’s not just menial chores or raising the kids. It’s building roads. It’s building bridges, it’s doing your oil infrastructure. You bring in labor for absolutely everything. And so if you look at countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar or especially the United Arab Emirates, you will notice that they have a pyramidal demographic structure. But on the men’s side, between roughly age 15 and 40, there’s a huge bulge that goes out, which is in essence, foreign guest workers who for the most part, unless you’re on that top end, it’s like doing the air traffic control and stuff, basically slave labor.

And in some cases that is not just a significant percentage of the population. In the case of Qatar, that is like half the population for the UAE, almost three quarters. So when you’re looking at the geopolitics of the region, you’re like, Oh, you don’t like the Iranians or We don’t like the Iraqis. Just keep in mind that the countries that the Israelis and the Americans, to a certain degree have identified as potential allies of the future Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE.

You are dealing with slave autocracies. So have fun with that.

Demographics Part 8: Optimism for Southeast Asia

We’re starting the day off with a bit of optimism thanks to the demographic outlook of Southeast Asia. This region of the world is primed and ready to boom; all it needs is a bit of money and tech to get the party started.

Why am I so bullish on SE Asia? It’s one thing to have a single country with solid demographics, but throw a whole bunch together, and their strength amplifies. Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos are child-heavy and can handle the low-skill jobs for years to come. Vietnam and Indonesia are a bit older, have fewer kids, and have the time and ability for the medium-skill jobs. Singapore and Thailand are the oldest of the bunch but have developed the technical skills to handle the high-skill jobs.

Southeast Asia is like the neighborhood we all want to live in. No animosity between neighbors (since geographical barriers prevent wars). Everyone brings something unique and valuable to the table (differentiated workforces). What more could you ask for?

Prefer to read the transcript of the video? Click here


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First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.
 
Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.
 
And then there’s you.
 
Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

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TRANSCIPT

Hey, everybody. Peter Zeihan here. Coming to you from Ojai, California. And as promised today, I wanted to talk about demographics in Southeast Asia. A portion of the world that I think is going to do very well in the decades to come.

Now, if you remember correctly, when I did the first issue of this series, we talked about how different population structures make for different economic structures. So if you have a lot of people age 20 to 40, you tend to have a really strong workforce and a good consumption base because those are the people who are building their homes and raising kids. If you have a lot of people aged roughly 45 to 65, you tend to have a very productive worker base because these are people with decades of experience behind them. And if they don’t have a lot of kids, all the income of the society, all the taxes generated can be focused on infrastructure and on the job training making for a very, very, very skilled workforce. One of the reasons I’m so bullish on Southeast Asia is because it’s got both of these in balance.

So on the bottom you’ve got countries like Myanmar and Cambodia and Loas who are very child heavy and they can be a workforce not just now but decades into the future. So if the money is made available, if the regional demand for the services is there, you have a very large, low skilled workforce. In the middle you’ve got a lot of countries like say Vietnam particularly, but also Indonesia and to a lesser degree Malaysia, who are a little bit older, don’t have a lot of kids relative to the overall population structure, but a lot of people who are age 20 to 45. And these are countries that, as a rule, are kind of having their day right now. The more problems that the Chinese have with keeping investment, the more diversified folks are looking to make their supply chains globally, the better these countries look. Vietnam in particular, is getting in on this in a very big way with education. And about 40% of their college graduates are in STEM. You know, that’s like four times the global average. And then at the top, you’ve got a number of societies like Singapore and Thailand, which are aging pretty quickly. They had their day as a low cost wage destination a couple decades ago. And now you’ve got a lot of people who are in their forties, fifties and even early sixties. They’re aging quickly. Looks a lot more like Northeast Asia than the rest of their neighborhood. But the accrued technical skills in these populations is huge. And plus, especially in a place like Singapore and Thailand, punches well above its weight as a mid-range destination. And having these all in the same neighborhood really helps with manufacturing.

So one of the things you want to do for the more complex manufacturing products, whether it’s cell phones or electronics or computing, is not everything requires the same skill set. The person who does the injection molding is not the person who does the wiring harness, is not the person who does the chips, is not the person who does the assembly. Each of these has a different wage structure, and in that sort of environment, variety is everything. And proximity is everything. And this is the world’s most differentiated workforce, all within the same region. So you throw a little bit of Japanese or American technology in there, maybe some Chinese assembly on the back end. And this area is set to boom.

Best part yet because this region is made up of mountains and peninsula shores and islands and jungles. They’ve never had a history of going to war with one another because they can’t get to one another. So they don’t have the history of animosity that we see in, say, Europe or Northeast Asia. Add it all up. And this is the part of the world that I expect to grow the most rapidly in the 30 years to come with demography at its heart.

Alright. That’s it for now. See you next time.

Demographics Part 6: The Orthodox Predicament

It’s time we talk about a region that has long held the title of “worst demographics”…The Orthodox Christian countries.

The big dog of the region – Russia – has entered a point of no return for its demographic situation. Ukrainians are even worse off. Regardless of the outcome of this war – they’ll end up with a s*** stew of demographics. 

Other countries like Bulgaria and Romania aren’t any better off. They’ve basically sent out all of their youth to other countries for economic opportunities…and even if they do return, they’re not adding to the population once they reach their 40s and 50s.

Serbia had the opportunity to flourish into the most rapidly growing economy in the region. Still, they’ve made every wrong policy decision in the book…so no dice for them either.

Each of these countries will likely come face-to-face with its inevitable demise within the next 20 years, and there’s not much they can do about it. 

Prefer to read the transcript of the video? Click here


Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:
 
First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.
 
Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.
 
And then there’s you.
 
Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S UKRAINE FUND

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S EFFORTS GLOBALLY


TRANSCIPT

Hey Everyone, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from snowy Colorado, where, as promised, we’re going to be talking about the next chunk of our demographic series, specifically talking about the Orthodox Christian world, which is a huge swath of territory stretching from Russia to Belarus and Ukraine and Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia. Now, these countries have three characteristics in common that have really shaped their demographic destinies, and none of them have been great.

The first is broad scale economic dislocation. These were the parts of the former communist world that didn’t do well, even at the height of communism. They weren’t very advanced. And especially when the post-Cold War system erupted, they didn’t have anything really to contribute aside from raw commodities. Their industry was outdated. They weren’t producing steel like the Czech Republic or I.T., stuff like the Latvians. They were only doing grains and raw materials and energy. And you can get growth from that. You can get wealth from that, you can get infrastructure and development from that. But unless it is really, really well-managed, the population just doesn’t see a whole lot of it. So these countries were in and out of horrible recessions for really 30 years.

It’s less bad in places like Romania and Bulgaria because they did ultimately get into the EU in the late 2000s, but they were the last ones in line. Serbia took a kind of a double hit because they don’t have a lot of raw materials that they can export to the world. And in the aftermath of the NATO bombings in the Yugoslav wars in the early 1990s, Serbia never moved on. So even with the Russians under Putin going from win to win, in terms of global policy and generating a lot of income from oil in Serbia, there was a whole lot of nothing. And politics basically became locked down in the aftermath of the Yugoslav wars, and the country really was never able to advance to whatever is next. And that holds true even today.

Okay. What’s second because of the economic dislocation, because so many people didn’t see a lot of opportunity. You had huge immigration from all of these states, mostly to Western Europe, some to the United States and Canada in the cases of Romania and Bulgaria once they got into the EU. If anything, the outmigration accelerated because there were then fewer restrictions.

The Russians easily lost 10 million people in the 1990 and early 2000s to the wider world. And in the case of Moldova, perhaps as much as one quarter of the female population under age 50 left never to return, some of them going, a lot of them going into the sex trade because there really wasn’t a lot of an option because education in Moldova during the Soviet periods was even very low.

Serbia is probably the country that has suffered the most from this outmigration because again, the government just has never moved on and there’s never been a plan economically for what’s next. 

The third one kind of flies under the radar and is probably going to piss a few people off. But here we are. Birth control in this region. The primary method is abortion.

So on average, more than seven out of ten pregnancies across this space are terminated. And if you have one abortion, I know I’m a dude. I really have no right to say this, but, you know, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s not critical to your health. But if you have ten, you’re probably endangering your future fertility.

So between a very low death rate, a very high abortion rate and very high infertility rates because of the weird intersection of health care and birth control and economic collapse, it’s arguable that a lot of these countries, probably Russia, right at the very top of that list, simply could not repopulate, even if the economic conditions were to turn around. So this is the part of the world that is duking it out with Northeast Asia for the lowest birth rates and the fastest national mortality, if that’s the right term in the world. So that’s kind of the overview.

Those are the three big issues that shape the region as a whole. But we do need to give additional attention to the Russians and the Ukrainians.

Now, the Russians have had a series of stacked geopolitical disasters World War One, World War Two, Stalin’s famines, Brezhnev’s mismanagement, Khrushchev’s mismanagement, and then the post-Cold War collapse. All these kind of stacked on each other. And so that the current generation that is now in their twenties is the smallest one they’ve ever had.

The Russians say they’ve got a metric ton of teenagers and that the demographic turn has been made and they’re going to be fine if they are telling the truth about that. That would be the only of their data that they’re telling the truth. More likely that we actually have fewer teenagers than 20 somethings. And you’ll see that in the demographic graphic that we’ve patched into the show.

More likely, their data is more similar to the situation in Ukraine. One more thing about the Russian demographics. They’re not equal. Just as in the United States, where places like Utah, Texas have higher birth rates in places like New York or Connecticut because they’re less urbanized or have different cultural norms. The same is true in Russia. Russia is not just Russian. The Russian state was originally founded in the area in Moscow, and they discovered that they really had no borders that were secure. So the way they decided to deal with that was to expand, conquer all their neighbors, consolidate and expand again, conquer all of those neighbors and so on and so on and so on until they get to the Russia that we more or less know today and during the Soviet period.

That means that there are dozens of conquered peoples living within the Russian system. Some of them have demographic stats that are just as bad as the Russians, but not all of them. A lot of the Turkic minorities, most notably the Chechens, the Dagestanis, the Basqueirs, and the Tatars actually have very robust demographic structures and are doing very well from a health and a growth point of view.

Well, the last decent number that we’ve got from the Russians was done by the 1989 Soviet Census. And at that point, the best guess – Soviet numbers, after all, was that 20% of the Russian population within the Russian Federation was non Russian. So 80% Russian, 20% non-Russian. Well folks, that was over 30 years ago. It’s probably closer to 25 to 30% today.

That’s non Russian. And if you fast forward another 20 years, you’re talking about probably 30 to 35%. Now these are all guesstimates upon guesstimates because this is Russia and getting good data is next to impossible even before there was a war. But we do know for sure that even if you include all of the minorities, the Russians, only have 8 million men aged 20 to 36 months from now.

At least a million of those are going to be committed to the war in Ukraine. We already have over 100,000 dead. We already have about a million who have fled the country. So one way or another, the Ukraine war is the last conventional war that the Russians are ever going to be able to fight because they simply won’t have enough people.

Now, the Ukrainians have no reason to lie about their demographic data, aside from the fact that it’s absolutely atrocious. And if you look at it and you look at just the collapse from the fifties to the forties to the thirties to the twenties, to the teens to kids, you’ll notice that this isn’t just a demographically spent country. This is a demographically dissolving country.

So unfortunately, even if the Ukrainians achieve runaway success in this war this year, it’s already too late. Even before the Russians started kidnaping children in the thousand, perhaps hundreds of thousands from Ukraine, this was a country that simply didn’t have enough people under age 40 to even theoretically repopulate themselves. So within 20 or 30 years, we are looking at the Ukrainian ethnicity vanishing from this world and probably the Russian ethnicity, no more than 20 or 30 years behind that.

Like I said, they are duking it out with Northeast Asia to see who vanishes faster, which means we have to turn to Northeast Asia next, because that is going to be the part of the world where from an economic point of view, these demographic turnings have the greatest impact. Okay, take care. Until next time.

Demographics Part 5: The Chinese Collapse

The latest batch of Chinese demographic data has set off ALL the alarm bells, and for good reason. With official figures putting the average birth rate at slightly over one birth per woman and the population peaking last year, the alarm bells should have been sounded years ago.

You haven’t even heard the worst part yet…all of that data is wrong…and the reality is far worse.

To put it nicely, China is screwed. The only thing that could save a country in this situation would be massive political or economic change…and not the kind of change that China has in store.

We apologize for the sound quality. A replacement microphone has already been ordered, and it has even arrived at Peter’s home…but Peter won’t be back to pick it up until Friday. So thanks for bearing with us until then!


Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:
 
First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.
 
Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.
 
And then there’s you.
 
Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S UKRAINE FUND

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S EFFORTS GLOBALLY