Those demographic predictions

by Chris Bertram on October 10, 2004

Matthew Turner has been reading John Gunther’s _Inside Europe_ , a classic from 1936, and (in “two”: “posts”: )regales us with some of the facts about Britain contained therein. I particularly liked this one:

bq. * The decline in the birth rate, which, according to competent estimates, will reduce the population to thirty-three million by 1985.



Dan Goodman 10.10.04 at 11:45 pm

For more recent predictions, see Toward The Year 2000 (ed. Daniel Bell), first printed as an issue of Daedalus in 1967.

The US population was supposed to become concentrated in three megapolitan strips — one on the East Coast, one on the West Coast, and one in the northern interior.
Buffalo, NY was supposed to gain considerable population. States like Nevada were supposed to be considerably depopulated.


Tom T. 10.10.04 at 11:45 pm

Remember, a lot of us reading this weblog are products of the U.S. educational system, and thus may need a little help. I must confess that I have no idea what the actual population of the UK was in 1985.


Walt Pohl 10.11.04 at 1:00 am

Around 57 million.


Mike 10.11.04 at 1:01 am

Despite being a UK citizen, I’m little more informed than you, but the UK population is, if I recall correctly, a little over 60 million. So in 1985 it must have been in the 55 million plus area.

Why comment if you don’t know anything? I don’t know…


rc 10.11.04 at 8:18 am


Matt McGrattan 10.11.04 at 8:19 am

Mike, Walt is actually pretty much spot on — it’d be wise to check your figures before making comments about others… ;)

In 1981 the population was 56.35 million and in 1991 it was 57.8. So it would have been almost exactly 57 million in 1985.

This is according the UK government’s own figures as downloadable:

The birth-rate steadily fell (with the odd jump up and down) throughout the 20th century with the low-point in 1976 it then rose again through to the early/mid-90s and has been dropping again since although it’s probably still not down to 1976 levels.


Matthew 10.11.04 at 10:30 am

Thanks for the link Chris.

On demographics I found it rather interesting on the UN’s site ( to see that the UK’s dependency ratio (on their medium-estimate) is actually falling, and won’t reach it’s 2000 level again until 2020, when it starts to rise. This is because of the falling numbers of children, which more than offset the increasing numbers of elderly.


Matt Weiner 10.11.04 at 4:30 pm

Matt McG, it looked to me as if “Why comment if you don’t know anything?” was directed at himself–Walt’s comment probably wasn’t visible to him if you check the timestamps. Anyway, I think that it’s perfectly fine to comment if you don’t know anything, so long as you have a justified true belief, but that’s another story.


Tom T. 10.11.04 at 5:44 pm

I thought Mike’s comment was directed at me, since I certainly commented without knowing anything. I was only trying to better appreciate the context of Chris’ post.


Matt Weiner 10.11.04 at 8:25 pm

I thought it was at himself, because he said he was not much more informed than you and then gave an answer. I’m glad you (Tom T.) asked your question, because I didn’t know the answer either. It’s like I tell my students–“always ask questions, because if you’re confused, so is someone else–except for you, there, in the back.”

11 I try to be amused 10.12.04 at 1:15 am

This line caught my eye:

“A diplomat friend of mine said, ‘England is the most dangerous country in the world because it is the only one capable of going to war on behalf of another country'”.


gordon 10.12.04 at 4:54 am

The UK P0st-War migration experience is discussed at info/hatton/migsurvlatest2.pdf

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