According to Eberstadt, there are four unexpected demographic surprises that are being experienced in the world today. In his 2003 speech titled “Population, Public Health, and Globalization”, Eberstadt explained that the predictive power of demography and population science has been somehow reduced in the modern times. According to the concept of demographic transition, “…with advances in the diffusion of knowledge and improvements in income, there would be an equilibrating decline in mortality and some while after that there would be an equilibrating decline in fertility, through voluntary, deliberate reduction in child-bearing patterns”. However this has failed to take effect and instead, the world is experiencing four unexpected surprises which include fertility decline, gender imbalance, mortality and America’s demographic exceptionalism.
As one of the unexpected surprises, fertility decline is being experienced in almost all parts of the world. Eberstadt refers to this process as subreplacement fertility. It is said that subreplacement fertility started in the 20th century in European countries (Eberstadt, 2003). It is surprising that the commencement of subreplacement fertility was not as a result of war, drought, famine or pestilence. This phenomenon is currently being experienced in the United States, North America, North and East Africa, China, and Japan. The worst part of this is that it is characterized by rapid increase in aging population.
For countries such as US, Japan, Europe and Australia, Eberstadt explains that they might not experience negative implications in terms of income since their income levels are high. However, they might suffer problems of increased immigration. For countries like China, whose income levels are low, subreplacement fertility will mean that the elderly will have to continue working in order to support themselves, which is a bit tricky because labor in China is not mechanized like in cases of US, Japan and Australia.
The other unexpected surprise is gender imbalance. This has been mostly observed in China where the ratio between boys and girls ranges between 121 and 130:100. Eberstadt explains that is hard to attribute the imbalance to poverty or illiteracy because even in the urban areas where the high proportion of the population is literate, the same is observed (2003). However, the cultural preference for baby boys over girls has been observed to be the major contributing factor to the imbalance not only in China but in other parts of the world. Eberstadt (2003) points out this imbalance, combined with subreplacement fertility will have extreme effects on the marriage market within the next few decades, specifically, in China.
On the other hand, the mortality rate has increased in Russia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike in Sub-Saharan African where HIV/AIDs is the cause behind increased mortality rate, Russia mortality rate cannot be attributed to this. Eberstadt (2003) points out that in Russia, the increased mortality rate can be attributed to alcoholism. This problem is associated with men and it has resulted to increase in mortality rate for Russian men by more than 70% over the last 30 years. Surprisingly, Russia’s life expectancy is lower, compared to that of third world countries and it is said that it might take 20 years for Russia’s life expectancy rate to the equal with that of the latter.
The final unexpected surprise as pointed out by Eberstadt is American’s demographic exceptionalism. Since 1970s, US have emerged as a demographic exception to the trends of fertility decline (Eberstadt, 2003). When compared to other countries like Russia, Japan and China, the fertility rate for the US is stating to increase. In average, US stands at 2.1 births/woman/lifetime where for other countries, births/woman/lifetime stands between 1.2 and 1.8. This is a relatively high rate and it is predicted that by the year 2050, US may have been able to stabilize its population and hence reduce its reliance on immigrants to fill the gaps in the labor market.
According to a report by Congressional Research Service issued in March 2011, the US population is increasing. The current population of US stands at approximately 308.7 million persons (Shrestha & Heisler, 2011). This is a double increase in population since 1950. It is therefore obvious that since 2003, the population of US has been increasing. In 2008, there were 14.0 live births for every 1000 in the population. A total of 4.25 million births were recorded that year. However, statistics shows that this was a decline from 2007 where the largest number of births was recorded within the previous 4 decades (Shrestha & Heisler, 2011). This was attributed to increased fertility rate for women between the ages of 15 and 44 years. Against this backdrop, the proportion of the elderly population has also increased since 2003. Between year 2003 and 2008, life expectancy rate increased for 70.6 to 80.7.
This means that as the US population continues to increase, so does the population of the elderly increases. According to the report by the Congressional Research Service, it is estimated that US population will be approximately 404 million persons by 2040. The same report further points out that with the increase in population and increase in the proportion of the elderly, policy issues such as healthcare and health care spending will need to be addressed. It is stated “health policy is interrelated with population change” (Shrestha & Heisler, 2011). As the population continues to increase, health conditions will increase, causing a need to increase healthcare resources and healthcare spending levels. This will even be accelerated by the increase in the proportion of elderly persons who are more prevalence to diseases and hence require more medical attention.