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After four months of political unrest and more than 250 deaths, the calls for Nicaragua’s embattled president Daniel Ortega to step down are escalating. One of political demography’s most robust statistical findings tells us that countries where an authoritarian government rules a youthful population, any change in regime typically yields an autocracy or at best, a partial democracy. Only very rarely has a liberal democracy emerged immediately after a rebellion in a youthful country (one with a population with a median age under 26 years). Given this, if Ortega is ousted from office, what type of leader should foreign affairs analysts expect to replace him?
There are good reasons to be optimistic. Nicaragua—now with a median age between 26 and 27 years—is no longer a youthful country. Fertility declined from around 6 children per woman in 1980 to about 2.2 today, gradually shifting Nicaragua into the intermediate phase of its age-structural transition, which (according to the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report) stretches from a median age of 26 to 35 years. More ….
Read the rest of the NSB essay on Nicaragua/Latin America here.
Everybody Counts (by Jennifer Sciubba) is a podcast about all the ways human population shapes our world. From mass urbanization to massive refugee flows, high fertility to record low birth rates, population trends have social, political, and economic consequences. The world’s population is changing in unprecedented ways, and this podcast helps listeners make sense of those changes. Listen (& subscribe) to Jennifer Sciubba’s (professor, Rhodes College) podcast at this site: Everybody Counts.
Are younger countries at higher risk of civil conflict? The International Crisis Group’s 2018 list of 10 conflicts to watch suggests they might be: Like last year, intra-state conflicts (civil and ethnic conflicts within states, rather than wars between states) dominate the list, and among those, about 70 percent are within youthful countries, or states with a median age of 25.5 years or
younger. The only multi-state cluster mentioned in both 2017 and 2018 lists is the Sahel, the world’s most youthful region.
However, recent studies indicate that population youthfulness can be a less reliable and more unruly predictor than its proponents (including me) initially perceived. Three key factors complicate the relationship between age structure and intra-state conflict: conflict type (civil or territorial); conflict history; and conflict spillover (the cross-border spread of insurgencies among contiguous clusters of youthful countries).
It should be an excellent time to be a young Iranian: High school and college enrollments in the Islamic Republic rank near the top of Muslim-majority countries. Women have only about two children on average, compared to 6.5 in the mid-1980s. And childhood mortality is projected to approach North American levels in the next 15 years. Yet, as the recent protests show, many young Iranians feel left out. Job growth—especially for young adults—has failed to keep pace with development, while persistently high rates of inflation steadily drive up the cost of living and cut deeply into Iranians’ savings.
Clearly, young Iranians expect more from their country’s economy. They aren’t alone. In Iran in Transition, a recent report published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Karim Sadjadpour and I show that Iran is traversing its demographic window of opportunity—an economically advantageous period marked by small proportions of dependent children and seniors, and a large proportion in the most productive working ages. In fact, Iran’s current worker bulge (Fig. 1, below) rivals those that helped make “economic tigers” out of Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and China.
[To read the entire essay, go to version on the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat]
or download Uncomfortable Companions_ Fertility Decline and Ideology in Iran here.
See the Population Reference Bureau’s excellent video explaining the “Four Dividends” that countries generally attain following fertility decline as they pass through the demographic window. These four dividends are: (1) child survival, (2) educational attainment, (3) per-capita income, and (4) political stability (measured by 10-year risk of intra-state conflict).
Here are links to obtain the IUSSP Conference paper (authored by Elizabeth Madsen and me) that describes the timing of these changes, in terms of the movement of countries through the age-structural transition. A background paper on the Age-structural Theory of State Behavior is published in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Some of this information is published in a short essay on the “Eight Rules of Political Demography“, on the New Security Beat.