February 17th, 2019

Population Growth Doesn’t Decrease Poverty



2014 marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s “unconditional war on poverty.” Economists and politicians often say that the best way to improve our economy is to grow the population because that creates more consumers and therefore more demand for goods and services including construction of new homes.

It turns out, however, that growing the population doesn’t decrease poverty. This is well-documented in the recently added sixteenth indicator for the world precedent setting “What is an Optimal/Sustainable Population for Vermont?” report which can be read at www.vspop.org. The indicator shows that even though Vermont’s population has increased by a huge 50% since the War on Poverty began in 1964 the poverty level hasn’t decreased at all but has remained approximately the same at 12%.

While there are several ways to measure economic well-being including GDP and median income adjusted for inflation, poverty is the most important measure because as Aristotle said, “The greatest measure of a society is the way it treats its weakest members.” The signs of poverty are all around us including the increase in people staying in homeless shelters, the number of Vermonters on food stamps – which in June of 2013 was at a record high level of over 100,000 or one out of every six persons – the growing demand in local food shelves, people with signs begging for money, and deteriorated homes in our cities, villages, and countryside.

A growth forever culture with finite resources has been proven to be bad for the environment and long-term sustainability. It is also not good for the overall economic well being of people.


George Plumb, Executive Director

Vermonters for Sustainable Population


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