Optimum population

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Depiction of the relationship between population and outcome, focusing on optimum values.svg

The optimum population is a concept where the human population is able to balance maintaining a maximum population size with optimal standards of living for all people.


Excessive growth may reduce output per worker, repress levels of living for the masses and engender strife.

— Confucius 551 – 479 BCE[1]

The concept of an optimum, or ideal, size of population concerns both theory and policy. Theoretically, there is for any given state of the arts and any given supply of available natural resources, together with a given supply of capital instruments and a given social organization, a certain size of population which can operate these resources to the best advantage and produce the largest per capita income of consumers' goods possible under the given conditions.

— Albert B. Wolfe in 1929[2]

Regarding the human population, end-targets for an optimum population include ecological sustainability, economic output,[3] and philosophical or ethical ends-in-themselves.

Some commentators disagree with the concept of "optimum population", believing that the human population will always, in the long-term, be able to adapt to the requirements of a larger population.[4]

Any conception of an optimum population level must lie between a minimum viable population of the human species and the maximum level of population that can be sustained by the carrying capacity of the planet Earth.


Various end-targets are often balanced together in estimating the optimum human population, and different emphasis on different end-targets cause variability among estimates.

The optimal world population has been estimated by a team co-authored by Paul R. Ehrlich.[5] End-targets in this estimation included:

Based on this, the estimation of optimum population was to be roughly around 1.5 billion to 2 billion people.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Neurath, Paul (1994). From Malthus to the Club of Rome and back : problems of limits to growth, population control, and migrations. Armonk, NY [u.a.]: Sharpe. p. 6. ISBN 978-1563244070.
  2. ^ Wolfe, A. B. (1929). "The Population Problem Since the World War: A Survey of Literature and Research—Concluded". Journal of Political Economy. 37 (1): 87–120. doi:10.1086/253998.
  3. ^ Dasgupta, P. S. (1969). "On the Concept of Optimum Population". The Review of Economic Studies. 36 (3): 295–318. JSTOR 2296429.
  4. ^ Gilpin, Kenneth N. (1998-02-12). "Julian Simon, 65, Optimistic Economist, Dies". B11. The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-18.
  5. ^ a b Daily, Gretchen C.; Ehrlich, Anne H.; Ehrlich, Paul R. (1994). "Optimum Human Population Size". Population and Environment. 15 (6): 469–475. doi:10.1007/BF02211719.

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