Constitutions, Populations and Demographic Change

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Routledge Handbook of Constitutional Law, 2013, pp. 455 - 468
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In late 2011 the world marked the arrival of its seven- billionth human inhabitant. It had taken just 12 years for the last billion people to be added to world population; the next billion is expected to be added within 14 years, by 2025. The United Nations projects that 2.4 billion people will be added to the world’s 2010 population by 2050. Some 97 percent of this growth will be in less developed regions—mostly in Africa and Asia—and nearly all in urban centres. Europe, by contrast, is projected to decline in absolute population, despite signifi cant immigration. Changes of this scale generate signifi cant long- term social transformations within countries, as populations change in size, composition and spatial distribution. It might be expected that constitutions would anticipate or refl ect such changes because constitutions are intended to establish an enduring legal architecture for the governance of social and political communities. While many constitutions reveal an awareness of population dynamics, for others the impact can be subtle or fragmented. The link between constitutions and populations attracted attention in the 1970s and 1980s, after Paul Erlich’s book, The Population Bomb , generated widespread international concern about the Malthusian calamity that might arise from unchecked population growth in a world of fi nite resources (Ehrlich). In that context, several scholars examined how the US Constitution might regulate demographic processes, but the issue has now largely slipped from view. This Chapter seeks to address this gap.
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