P10. The Declining Population
[Oxford Magazine, 15 November 1934, p. 154]
15 November 1934
To the Editor of "The Oxford Magazine."
I venture to write to you on a subject to which, if I may judge from casual conversation, members of Congregation have not yet given the attention it deserves.  It is not possible to make an accurate forecast of future population until the Census returns for 1931 are published in full.  It may suffice to say here that the number of children born in 1932 was well below three quarters of the average number born in the years from which our present undergraduates are drawn, and that, as the number of women of the right age is about to decline substantially, a still further decrease is to be expected. It is inevitable that in seventeen years from now the pool from which we can draw our men will have shrunk to less than three quarters of its present size, and it is also certain that, unless a spectacular change occurs in the birthrate, the pool will shrink much more.
Optimists may console themselves with the reflexion that we can cast our net wider. But it is to be remembered that the newer universities, providing first-rate facilities for technological education, will be competing keenly for the diminished number of candidates, and that the proportion of the population desiring the kind of education which we provide is or ought to be limited by the proportion of occupations in life to which it is more fitted. This proportion may, indeed, rise, and ultimately, with growing wealth, it may rise considerably. If every citizen could have a university education, the number coming to Oxford would probably be ample. But that is looking too far ahead. I am concerned in this letter with the next thirty years.
I submit, therefore, that the matter is one which requires serious reflexion by those responsible for policy. It is a relevant consideration for Colleges when undertaking new building and for the University when licensing new Colleges or Halls. It is relevant to acts of policy affecting the balance between research and teaching, between post-graduate and undergraduate work, and between scientific and more general studies.
The changing age distribution of the population also deserves consideration. With a narrow field for recruitment to College and University positions from among the young we may well have qualms about the statutes determining requirements. Is it really desirable to extrude teachers from their duties at any arbitrarily determined age, merely to avoid the matters of delicacy which selective retirement according to capacity occasions? I suggest that the present statutes prescribing University and College age limits require early revision.
Is it permissible to make one further proposal? This tendency to declining numbers has a wider importance, affecting [a] the balance of power in the world and the handing on to future generations of the heritage not only of the British people but of the white races themselves. Should not the University and Colleges seek to give an example, and, departing still further from their age-long tradition, provide that the lives of their married staff be not less comfortable than those of the bachelors by a system of generous family allowances? 
I am, Sir,
R. F. Harrod
Christ Church. November 9th, 1934
It should be stressed that Harrod was not alone in his fervor on the population question, although he certainly was one of the most active propagandists: by 1936-37 the declining population issue was extensively discussed in leading articles and correspondence columns of newspapers and magazines and in wireless broadcasts, and in the Parliament (see for instance J. M. Winter, "Population, Economists, and the State: The Royal Commission on Population, 1944-1949", in M. O. Furner and B. Supple, The State and Economic Knowledge. The American and British Experiences, Cambridge: University Press, 1990, in particular pp. 445-48).
2. The general tables of the 1931 census were published by the HMSO in 1935.
3. Harrod expounded his ideas on family allowances in detail in letter 408 to Marie Stopes of 22 November 1934, [jump to page] . The proposal was later refined and made public on numerous occasions, in particular in "The Problem of the British Birth Rate", 1937:10 , part II, pp. 23-26.
- a. Oxford Magazine: «affectng».
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