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GAIA Foundation Grants

Economic Policy Considerations for US Population Stabilization

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The 21st century will be a time of dramatic change in the demographic structures of our national population in the United States. There will be many dynamic forces – social, economic, and political – which will serve to facilitate and to adapt to these coming demographic changes. By the end of the century these changes are likely to manifest in population stabilization and, ultimately, the reduction of our national population.

The evolutionary changes in demographic cohorts of our population will have huge impacts on the economy. They will challenge and create uncertainty about how young adults live and plan their futures. They will challenge the support networks for children, seniors, and others needing assistance. They will challenge the growth-based economy. They will require significant adaptations throughout our society, and because they will be disruptive to the status quo, they will be of critical concern for governance at all levels.

These changes will present both challenges and opportunities. There will be a critical need for public policy dialog in order to anticipate and ameliorate the disruptions and to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by these demographic changes.

The GAIA Foundation has established a public policy grants program to encourage this important dialog with research-based investigations of the critical shifts in population. The grants – to organizations and individuals with subject matter expertise – will support innovative niche projects to explore population public policy issues in the United States.

Theme of Winter 2023 Grants: In the upcoming national debate, we believe that economic challenges will be the first order of concern for political leadership and policy makers. Those favoring population stabilization must be prepared with sound research-based arguments to balance the inevitable resistance of advocates for status quo pro-growth policies. Therefore, the theme of the Winter 2023 Grant Funding Cycle will be:

Economic Policy Considerations for US Population Stabilization: Challenges and Opportunities for 21st Century Sustainability

While the emphasis will be on “Economic Policy Considerations”, we acknowledge that economic issues are intertwined with other important issues: the impact of population on natural resources like water, air, and habitat for at-risk plants and animals; and especially, the critical contribution of our human activity to cumulative atmospheric greenhouse gases and global warming/climate change.

Background

Various fields of scientific research now assert that our prolific and highly consumptive human species has overreached and outstripped our planet’s ability to sustain the ecosystems necessary for all animal and plant life forms. Yet policy makers in most developed economies – including the United States – continue to pursue public policies guided by the traditional view of free market economics – that “dynamic population growth is essential to a vibrant national economy.” 

Fortunately, there are indications of an evolving societal appreciation of the threats to planetary sustainability posed by an ever-increasing population. There is a growing willingness by individuals to alter their reproductive behaviors that have historically been encouraged by pronatalist attitudes and by incentivized public policies. 

One macro-indicator of change in reproductive behavior is the significant reduction in US births per woman over the last 60 years following the 1950s baby boom. Increasingly women and men in the US are for various reasons – some voluntary and some accidental – not becoming parents.

In the US 20 percent of women over age 40 yrs are childless; with a higher percentage among more ​highly educated women.

Another indicator of change is that more young adults in the US are asserting their lifetime commitment to remain childfree-for-life.

While such signs of moderation in reproductive behaviors are encouraging, we must acknowledge the variability of population patterns. There are ongoing macro-dynamic forces that influence human reproductive behavior: generational, social, economic, cultural, and political. We have learned that reproductive decision making can be affected by nationwide pandemic disease, and we are cautiously aware that shifting political attitudes in public policy regarding reproductive health care may cause birth rebound effects. 

Our grants program recognizes the certain critical factors that have a direct effect on our nation’s demographic future:  the expected pattern of birthrate decline, the growth of the elderly cohort, the multiple effects of immigration, and other societal changes. Importantly, it is these factors that will manifest in our changed demographic future toward population stabilization and, ultimately, the reduction of population, or what some have called national “depopulation”.

Reference Data

US Population Trends and Projections

The following four displays of US population trends and projections serve as a baseline for understanding: the pace of past population changes, the predicted pace of future population changes, and major demographic and societal factors impacting the past, present, and future levels of US population.

For more Information on the components of the GAIA Grant Program, see:

Grant Life Cycle – which summarizes: the Timelines and Due Dates; the Project Deliverables; and the Steps in the Application. (being revised – available soon)

Grant Funding Priorities – which describes our Grant Review Committee’s priorities: the Priority Policy Sectors and the Listing of Suggested Topics related to the sectors. (being revised – available soon)

Application Instructions – which describes the Project Review sequence, the Steps in the Application, the funding for the Project Deliverables, and How to Apply for a Grant. (being revised – available soon)

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We welcome your questions, suggestions, and your words of support for our initiative to become more aware of issues of human population and balance with our planet earth.

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