Linking population growth and violence
Jan 31st 2008
From The Economist print edition
Quick tempers come with quick population growth
GAZA and Kenya have more in common than short names ending in “a” and violent squabbles apparently not ending at all. Both have too many people, or, to be more exact, too many young men without either jobs or prospects. The resulting frustration is one of the causes of their present discontents.
In rich countries the average woman today has 1.6 children in her lifetime. The comparable woman in Gaza has over five, in Kenya just under five. One good development is that these rates have been falling. Alas, the consequences of the even higher rates of 20 years ago (about seven in both places) is a large cohort of young men aged 15-24 who are now alive (in the past many would have died as infants), relatively healthy and educated (partly thanks to foreign aid), but jobless and thus pugnacious. In this context it is apt that the word cohort means a band of warriors.
The population of both Gaza and Kenya has grown by about six times since 1950, much more than the 3.6 times of, say, North Africa or the 4.3 times of sub-Saharan Africa. In Gaza about 1.5m people now crowd into 360 square kilometres (140 square miles), making the strip’s population density about two-thirds Hong Kong’s. Kenya is far bigger, but the land can no longer support the rural population. So the young, exchanging urban for rural poverty, head for the slums, bringing their anger, and machetes, with them.
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