Vernon Henderson, Adam Storeygard, David Weil, 19 December 2020

Population density and its effect on economic activity have long been of interest to scholars. This column develops a new measure of land quality which takes into account agricultural productivity, biomes, proximity to the sea, navigable rivers, large lakes, natural harbours, terrain roughness, and elevation. The measure is used to compute quality-adjusted land area as well as population density for each country in the world. Correlating quality-adjusted population density with income per capita, it finds a starkly negative relationship, which is suggested to be the result of differential population growth between poor and rich countries over the last 200 years.

Declan Costello, Annika Eriksgård Melander, Martin Hallet, 22 November 2019

Over the past ten years there has been a substantial rise in income per capita differences between Germany and France.However, it is not a given that the German economy will continue to outperform the French one, and indeed the picture has changed during 2019. This column argues that structural divergences between member states in the euro area contributed to nominal and real divergences, and suggests what can be done to foster convergence between the two countries. 

Gregory Casey, Oded Galor, 23 March 2017

Most policies that target climate change – such as carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programmes – have long-term benefits but short-term economic costs. This column argues that population policies may not be subject to this trade-off. In particular, policies that reduce population growth can have a direct positive effect on income per capita as well as lowering growth of carbon emissions. Such policies could play an important role in the portfolio of actions aimed at mitigating climate change.

Oded Galor, Andrew Mountford, 18 February 2008

The last 200 years saw a ‘Great Divergence’ in per capita income, as some countries industrialised while others remained less developed. This column attributes the divergence to international trade. Comparative advantage encouraged industrialising economies to invest in human capital, while non-industrial economies experienced population growth.


CEPR Policy Research