Populations are getting older around the world—that’s no surprise in light of declining fertility and improvements in health care. But in many countries, something more dramatic is going on—the population is actually shrinking. These demographic developments portend stark fiscal challenges. What should countries—whatever their degree of economic development—do to respond to these challenges?
By Jeff Hayden
"The first wealth is health,” American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1860.
Emerson’s quote, cited by Harvard economist and health expert David E. Bloom in Finance and Development’s lead article, reminds us that good health is the foundation on which to build—a life, a community, an economy.
Humanity has made great strides, developing vaccines and medical techniques that allow us to live longer, healthier lives. Other developments—such as increased access to clean water and sanitation—have helped beat back long-standing ills and pave the way for better health.
The world is on the threshold of a stunning demographic transformation caused by falling fertility and rising life expectancy. Global aging promises to affect every dimension of economic, social, and political life—from the shape of the family to the shape of the world order.