In regard to Gary Becker's article, "Let's defuse the population bomb--with free markets" (Economic Viewpoint, May 23), I agree with him 100%. The U.N. and other international organizations' policies on Third World nations' development were drafted based on naive assumptions and outdated information. If they really care about helping to solve some of the serious problems facing these nations, they must concentrate more on how to improve the educational systems and how to support businesses of the microentrepreneurs in these developing nations.
When will we disabuse economists of the absurdity that per capita income data are reflective of improvements in family income? Becker states: "The typical Third World family is now much better off than 40 years ago." His evidence: "Per capita incomes in most of these nations have grown at good rates...." Unfortunately, per capita rates simply do not stand the test of disaggregation.
Witness the U.S.: From 1973 to 1990, real per capita disposable income increased at an annual rate of 1.3%. During the same period, the top fifth of the population increased its share of family income by 7.8%, while the lower fifth's share decreased by 16.4%. Four-fifths of American families experienced falling or stagnant real incomes during the period. "Much better off"? Hardly.
Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation