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European countries are experiencing population decline, and the tacit assumption in most analyses is that this decline may have detrimental effects on welfare. In this paper, we use a survey conducted in the Netherlands to find out whether population decline is always met with fear. A number of results stand out. Population size preferences differ by geographic proximity, as the majority of respondents favor a decline in the global population, but support a stationary population closer to home. Population decline is clearly not always met with fear: 31% of respondents would like the population to decline at the national level, and they generally perceive decline to be accompanied by non-material welfare gains (improved environment), as well as material welfare losses (tax increases, economic stagnation). In addition to these driving forces, it appears that attitudes toward immigrants are very strong determinants of views regarding population growth at the local and the national levels. Immigrants seem to inspire greater fear than the prospect of population decline.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDemographic Research
Journal publication date2011

ID: 200693