Volume 25 - Article 13 | Pages 437-464

Who fears and who welcomes population decline?

By Hendrik P. Van Dalen, Kène Henkens

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Date received:17 Feb 2011
Date published:12 Aug 2011
Word count:6701
Keywords:decline, externalities, immigration, population, population policy, preferences


European countries are experiencing population decline and the tacit assumption in most analyses is that the decline may have detrimental welfare effects. In this paper we use a survey among the population in the Netherlands to discover whether population decline is always met with fear. A number of results stand out: population size preferences differ by geographic proximity: at a global level the majority of respondents favors a (global) population decline, but closer to home one supports a stationary population. Population decline is clearly not always met with fear: 31 percent would like the population to decline at the national level and they generally perceive decline to be accompanied by immaterial welfare gains (improvement environment) as well as material welfare losses (tax increases, economic stagnation). In addition to these driving forces it appears that the attitude towards immigrants is a very strong determinant at all geographical levels: immigrants seem to be a stronger fear factor than population decline.

Author's Affiliation

Hendrik P. Van Dalen - Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, Netherlands [Email]
Kène Henkens - Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, Netherlands [Email]

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