In my world (that takes place on an infinite plane), there exists an empire (let's call it Usotuhr) that is hell-bent on establishing human hegemony, or at the very least a human foothold, in the world. Due to this, they have launched a series of colonization programs that they call "The Manifest destiny". The only problem is... They don't have enough people. The rapid sending of humans overseas eats away at the domestic population, those who are comfortable in their environment won't go, and those that do go don't reproduce quickly enough to establish any significant population in the region.

My question is: Is there any way to cause rapid overpopulation?

(Edit : Growth )

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, there is, and seemed to work, but answering you using actual example would require me to "praise" nazi Germany :/ So I'll just leave this here, look it up if you want. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Oct 1 '16 at 19:10
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Is there a way to increase human population? Yes, and most people learn the method for doing this sometime in their late teens. I suggest you ask your parents. :-) $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Oct 1 '16 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ My comment wasn't meant to be helpful: it was meant to be a joke. I post an actual answer below. $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Oct 1 '16 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay Oh , never mind then , sorry for being a lemon. Thank you for your excellent answer. $\endgroup$
    – user15036
    Oct 1 '16 at 20:25

I think the obvious answer is: Make it socially and economically desirable for people to have many children.

Are we assuming a modern, 20th century or later society? Or a more primitive society? I'm assuming modern.

The average woman is fertile for about 25 years of her life. Presumably most women could manage to have a child every 2 years. So why does the average American or European woman not have 10 or 12 children in her life? Presumably because having and raising children is, (a) a lot of work, (b) expensive, and (c) interferes with other things a person might want to do in life.

So simple idea #1: Direct pay-offs. Promise \$X for each child someone has, either a flat fee or a monthly stipend. Of course the amount has to be enough to make it worth people's while. I wouldn't have another child just because you offered me \$10, but I surely would if you offered me \$100,000.

In the past, having children was often economically beneficial. More children meant more help with the family's work: more hands to work on the farm or make the pottery or whatever. But in modern society, most people don't own a business and so they work for someone else, and child labor is illegal so they can't send their kids to work to bring in income. So children are an economic burden rather than a benefit.

Idea #2: Encourage entrepreneurship, and make sure the law allows people to use their children to help with the business with few restrictions. If people have home businesses where children bring in money, they have an incentive to have more children. Loosen child labor laws and eliminate barriers to children earning money. Presumably you don't want to produce more children only to have them all die in factory accidents, but make it easy for young teens to get paying jobs. Abolish the minimum wage. Bring back apprenticeships.

For a time children had a lingering economic benefit that you expected your children to take care of you in your old age. But now we expect the government to do that.

Idea #3: Abolish government-funded retirement plans. Re-establish the idea that when you are to old to work, you should move in with your children and have them take care of you. Then people have an incentive to have more children in the hope that at least one will be willing and able to care for them in their old age.

Idea #4: Make it easier to have children and harder not to. Make contraceptives illegal or expensive, while making maternity care cheap and easy to obtain.

Of course people respond to incentives other than money. You need to work to make people think of having children as something positive of itself.

Idea #5: Produce books or movies or holodeck programs or whatever entertainment your society has that builds up the joys of family. Some can be overt: like make dramas about young couples who have fertility problems and they are heartbroken that they cannot have a child and then finally the doctors find a cure for their problem and they have a baby and they are overjoyed and live happily ever after. Have stories where a woman struggles whether to get a career or have children and stay home to raise them, and in the end she decides to have children and this is clearly portrayed as the best choice and a happy ending. But be sure to include plenty of more subtle pro-children messages. Like the action hero fights the villains and saves the day, and then at the end he goes home and hugs his children and he tells his wife that winning these great battles is exciting and important but his real joy is the family. Have quick, throw-away scenes where characters praise a woman for having a lot of children or express jealousy that she has more children than they do, and then get back to the main plot. Or have characters express surprise that someone doesn't have children. Have a character sneer, "Bob doesn't have any children -- I guess he's just not man enough to get a girl pregnant." Instead of comics telling jokes about race or politicians or whatever, have a major subject of ridicule be people with no children. Etc. Use fiction and literature and entertainment to create an assumption in society that more children is good. Get people thinking that EVERYONE wants to have children, and if you don't, there's just something odd about you.

I guess a lot of this depends on what the people with this agenda control.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a scary example of how powerful media influence can be over culture. $\endgroup$
    – J.Todd
    Oct 1 '16 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Viziionary Sure. Just look at how the media push other social ideas. I think it works to at least some extent. $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Oct 3 '16 at 4:29

Earth has been in the middle of a population boom since about the 1960s. It took until about 1800 for the first billion people and now we add a billion about every 12-14 years. We're so good at making more humans we're fighting to slow down population growth, but this is a very recent thing in human history. How did that happen?

Passed  Year    Billions
-       1800    1
127     1927    2
33      1960    3
14      1974    4
13      1987    5
12      1999    6
12      2011    7
14      2025*   8
18      2043*   9
40      2083*   10

The basic equation is deceptively simple: increase birth rates, decrease death rates. But it's not quite that simple. And it's more important to decrease death rates, and when they die. This is all about increasing the fertility of the population. You do that by...

Decreasing child mortality.

It doesn't matter how many people are born if they die before they become adults and have kids of their own. In the Middle Ages this was anywhere from 30 to 50%. In 1915 in the US infant mortality was at 10%. Now the worldwide average is more like 5%.

enter image description here

Decreasing maternal mortality.

Historically, childbirth is one of the most dangerous things a woman can do. In the Middle Ages the cause of death for a woman would be child birth, or associated complications and infections, about 20% of the time. In the US in 1900 this was still high at 1%. In some parts of the world today it's still at 15%. Since the number of women is the limiting factor, it decreases your breeding population if they're dying during birth. Now, in the US, it's practically 0.

enter image description here

Decreasing poverty.

The risk of a woman dying as a result of pregnancy or childbirth during her lifetime is about one in six in the poorest parts of the world compared with about one in 30 000 in Northern Europe.

Source: "Maternal mortality: who, when, where, and why"

The single biggest cause of death is being poor. It decreases your access to medical care. It reduces the amount and quality of food you have. It increases stresses on your body, the amount of toxins you're taking in, and so on. Child mortality rates are 2 to 3 times higher in the developing world than the developed world.

Increasing the food supply everywhere.

Can't have kids if you can't feed them. Gotta feed all those people. More food means cheaper food means more calories for everyone. More calories means healthier people having healthier babies who will live to have healthy babies.

Part of our current population boom, and abundance of food, is due to the Green Revolution. The development of cheap, industrially produced fertilizers and pesticides, plus changes to how we manage our crops and what crops we were growing, in the early 20th century saw a huge increase in farm productivity in rich nations who had the money and industrial capacity to support it. Later in the 1930s to 1960s a concerted effort was made to make the same technology available world wide. The result was a huge boom in the global food supply.

Discouraging industrialization.

When everything had to be done by hand, people traditionally had big families with lots of children because they needed a lot of people to work the farm. Someone has to feed animals, milk the cows, plant the crops, til the soil, mend the fences, go to town, shoe the horses, etc... etc... etc... The more children you had the more land you could work. The more land you could work the more crops and animals you could grow and sell. People will naturally want bigger families.

Once you industrialize you have machines for all that. You need less people. You have smaller families. The birth rate drops.

Having a Prolonged Period of Peace.

The unprecedented era of world peace (nothing on the scale of the world wars), global cooperation, and trade we've enjoyed since 1945 added to the population boom.

Modern war means sending your young generation are soldiering, not working or having children. It means diverting your food and industrial output towards warfare. It means wrecking your infrastructure. This all leads to a lowered standard of living for the civil population. Less food, less prosperity, less young people of breeding age, this all means lowered birth rates, and higher child mortality rates.


  • $\begingroup$ That link doesn't understand life expectancy and how it's formulated and even mentions such in the article. 70+% lived to their 60s to 80s $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Oct 2 '16 at 5:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Durakken I'm not sure what you mean about life expectancy, but I'm not relying on that part. Point is, child and maternal mortality was high until the mid 20th century. That drop was, in part, responsible for the population boom. Still, I bolstered it with more sources. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Oct 2 '16 at 5:30
  • $\begingroup$ Life expentancy is what the article is about... While Child/Mother mortality rates have an effect, the effect is being able to maintain health overall. Which causes birth rates to fall which reduces the effect that you're talking about to near 0. $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Oct 2 '16 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure the maternal mortality rate in the Middle Ages was 20%? If 50% of kids die before they become adults, every woman has to have a minimum of 4 kids just to keep the population stable. Let's call it 5 kids to account for other mortality, the women who were infertile and folk who became nuns. At at 20% chance of death per birth, a woman has a 41% chance of surviving the birth of her 4th kid, and a 33% chance of surviving the birth of her 5th. Was the Middle Ages really chock full of widowers being single parent families? $\endgroup$
    – DrBob
    Oct 2 '16 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ @DrBob The 20% number appears correct. I've backed it up with modern numbers, 16% in the worst parts of the world. What I got wrong is it's not per birth, it's for the lifetime of a woman. 20% is still pretty bad. I imagine yes, there were a lot of single parent families with the eldest daughter helping to raise the kids. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Oct 2 '16 at 17:57


  • tax incentives (bonuses for high number of kids, punitive taxes for not having kids or not being married)

  • generous childcare services and safety net (actually judging from EU experiences it seems more cost effective than just money incentives)

  • poor access to abortion or contraception (it may sinful, immoral or just hard to buy)

  • high status of women who give birth to new citizens (actually simpleton Sparta kept them in higher esteem than seeming enlightened Athens)

  • subliminally propagated cultural norms (like showing on TV mostly big families)

  • give your soldiers a holiday to have a time to impregnate their wife (I would not say which country tried this, I would just say that their project to have a thousand years empire failed pretty quickly...)

  • policies directed at having multiple kids, who not necessary would be raised by their mother (like Lebensborn, but in more modern setting it may involve in vitro and surrogate mother-ship)


Please, respect women, don't view them as just child-producing factories, and don't expect them give birth to >10 children (it's unhealthy, after all). But 4-5 children per woman is realistic, under right circumstances.

  1. Group marriages. It's easier for 6 parents to raise 15 children than for 2 to take care of 5.
  2. Make the culture more child-oriented. Let it picture children as the most perfect/beautiful/etc. of everything that exists in this universe.
  3. Religion. Let them worship a deity that looks like a human child. Also, some cultures in our world have a cult of ancestors, but your people can have the opposite -- veneration of descendants.
  4. All that has already been said about the social benefits, better healthcare for pregnant women, etc.
  5. The last, but not the least: all those prohibitions (on contraceptives, abortions, etc.) don't work. They have quite the opposite effect: if you are trying to force people do what you want, they will try to escape by whatever way they can.

You've got something mistaken...

Empires would just conscript soldiers and generally war causes babybooms to happen so all you have to do is conscript soldiers and send them out to fight then if they're likely go home to a wife with a child and have plenty more because thats what we humans do.

As for getting people to move you can give people bits of the land they've fought for and you could say that families that move out to the new lands won't be subject to conscription for a decade or so.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ -1 We discourage questioning the basic premise of the OP's question, it's their world, unless they ask for it (like with a "reality check" tag), or if it just cannot be made to work, or if you have a really cool alternative. This would be better as a comment. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Oct 1 '16 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Schwern I didn't question the basic premis of the OP's question. I provide the answer by correcting a misconception implied which is that War leads to less population, when this is simply not true and fixing the misconception nullifies the question unless the OP meant to have said that their empire doesn't involve themselves in the practice of conscription and war does the oppoisite of it does in reality. Neither of these points are in the question as such, there is no questioning of the OP's basic premise... $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Oct 2 '16 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ There's nothing in the question about war. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Oct 2 '16 at 5:16
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    $\begingroup$ "generally war causes babybooms to happen" No, the post WWII baby boom was an exception due to a combination of unique factors. WWI produced no baby boom. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Oct 2 '16 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Schwern No. The baby boom isn't unique. They always happen. The difference between WWII and other wars is that those unique things weren't there. Basically the baby boom is supposed to replace the lost lives but when lives aren't lose you have a pop increase. $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Oct 2 '16 at 5:45

For a simple increase to ten children per woman, that's just social manipulation. Just increase infant mortality by taking about two thirds of children at random and shipping them to some other planet. Parents will have more children to be sure two are likely to 'make it'. The Nazi party got about six children per women just through pressure and money.

For higher rates, it gets dicey. Having litters instead of individual children requires many resources and tends destroy the mother's health. Mechanical aids, such as forcing premature births only add a little, as does forcing all women to be pregnant from sixteen to forty. Once you assume in-vitro gestation, the sky is the limit and factories could turn out kids.

Instead of increasing the rate past ten per woman, you could use alien tech to just increase the density. Free energy, food, and building materials could go a long way towards making mile high megacities with a planetary population pushing eighty billion.

I'm a bit unclear why Earth is the only place for reproduction. It does make an odd society if the all human babies must be born on earth. Adoption as the norm becomes a thing.

  • $\begingroup$ I think you misread "colonization" to mean "spaceflight" and advanced technology. The question doesn't involve spaceflight. It "takes place on an infinite plane". $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Oct 2 '16 at 18:02

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