Discussion Paper no. 98-8


Neo-malthusian dilemma manifests itself in a growing population of 500 million in 1998 and an additional net growth of 9 million people each year in Latin America and the Caribbean (LA & C) and low level of productivity resulting in poverty, a threat to sustainable development and prospects of continuing low level of the quality of life. To escape this dilemma it is necessary to reduce growth in the population while at the same time following the United Nations “Programme of Action” and the United Nations, The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), “Social Equity and Changing Production Patterns: An Integrated Approach”.

This paper examines the size of the population and its rate of growth and the contributing factors to these two, namely fertility, mortality and international migration. The population of Latin America and the Caribbean is large and is growing very significantly. Fertility is still high. Mortality is low, and the rate of natural increase is substantial in many countries. Emigration from outside the region is non-existent. Immigration exists but overall it is inconsequential, but for some individual countries it is important. There are some inter-regional migration.

Internal migration is still important. Rural to urban migration is being superceded by urban to urban migration. The spatial distribution of the population is of great concern. Overall, densities are satisfactory. But the population is located in small areas of the national territory.

Urbanization is a major aspect of the spatial distribution of the population. L A & C is a highly urbanized area. With few exceptions, the capital cities are primate cities. There are four mega cities of 10 million and more. Urbanization and the concentration of the population in a few small areas have many adverse effects for a sustainable development.

Low level of productivity is seen in the low per capital income of less than $4000 for the region. Poverty is rampant throughout the countries. Food is scarce. Housing is inadequate and insufficient. Latin America and the Caribbean is classified as a middle income region. This may be true, but some countries are very poor, and there is much poverty in all countries.