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Optimum population refers to the size of a population that produces the best results according to chosen end targets. One text from 1926 presented a single end target as being "...the largest per capita income of consumers' goods possible under the given conditions".[1] Other potential end targets in favour of lower levels of population are cited, including: long term sustainability, efficient operation of democracy, the preservation of personal freedom and the preservation of biodiversity while potential end targets in favour of higher levels of population are cited, including the abilities to preserve and foster cultural diversity, to stimulate intellectual, artistic, and technological creativity and to facilitate social infrastructure.[2]



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

— Confucius 551 – 479 BCE[3]

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.

— Journal of Political Economy Vol. 37, No. 1, Feb., 1929, page 87.[1]

Regarding the human population, end-targets for an optimum population include ecological sustainability, economic output[4] 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "THE POPULATION PROBLEM SINCE THE WORLD WAR: A SURVEY OF LITERATURE AND RESEARCH—Concluded VIII. THE OPTIMUM". Journal of Political Economy (Vol. 37, No. 1 ed.). The University of Chicago Press. Feb 1929. p. 87.
  2. ^ Daily, G. C.; Ehrlich, A. H.; Ehrlich, P. R. (1994). "Optimum human population size". Population and Environment. 15 (6): 469. doi:10.1007/BF02211719.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ On the Concept of Optimum Population P. S. Dasgupta The Review of Economic Studies Vol. 36, No. 3 (Jul., 1969), pp. 295-318 (article consists of 24 pages) Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL:
  5. ^ Gilpin, Kenneth N. (1998-02-12). "Julian Simon, 65, Optimistic Economist, Dies". B11. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2008-05-18. Retrieved 2008-05-18.
  6. ^ a b Gretchen C. Daily, Anne H. Ehrlich, and Paul R. Ehrlich. Optimum Human Population Size. Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies Volume 15, Number 6, July 1994 01994 Human Sciences Press, Inc.

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