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Introduction to Sociology

Ron Hammond, Paul Cheney, Raewyn Pearsey

Chapter 17 - Population

Demography is the scientific study of population growth and change. Everything in society influences demography and demography conversely influences everything in society. After World War II, the United States began to recover from the long-term negative effects of the war. Families had been separated, relatives died or were injured, and women who had gone to the factories then returned home. For about 4 years the government had assumed war time powers, goods and services were rationed. This assumption of power limited the civil rights of the average citizen. It was an era of social and cultural upheaval.

The year 1946 reflected the impact of that upheaval in its very atypical demographic statistics. Starting in 1946 people married younger, had more children per woman, divorced then remarried again, and kept having children. From 1946 to 1956 the birth rate rose, peaked, and then began to decline. By 1964 the national birth rate was back to the level it was in 1946. The millions of children born from 1946-1964 were called the Baby Boom Generation (there are about 78 million of them alive today, see Chapter 12). Why was there such a change in family-related rates? The millions of deaths caused by the war, the long-term separation of family members from one another, and the deep shifts toward conservative values all contributed to the baby boom. After the Baby Boom Generation it conversely affected personal and larger social levels of society in every conceivable way.

The Formula

In this chapter you will learn how financial, educational, spiritual, cultural, and emotional social forces shape and form the demographic trends within a society. You will also get a glimpse of how demographic forces shape a society. The core of demographic studies has three component concerns: births, deaths, and migration. All of demography can be reduced to this simple formula called the components of change method:

(Births-Deaths) +/- (In-Migration - Out Migration) = Population Change.

This part of the formula, (Births-Deaths) is called Natural Increase, or all births minus all the deaths in a given population over a given time period. The other part of the formula, (In-Migration) - (Out Migration) is called Net Migration, which is all the migration in minus all the out-migration in a given population over a given time period. Population Change is then added to a previous year's population to yield new population estimate. Most official population counts are estimates. There are mistakes in counting that render results that are very close, but never perfectly accurate.

Let's consider how we might use this formula to measure U.S. population change between 2008 and 2009, using the U.S. Census Enumeration, or the formal counting/estimating of a population by its government. Based on the US Census, the 2008 US population was 304,375,000 (retrieved 21 May, 2014 from SOURCE). If you start the estimate with the 2008 population, you can run the numbers through the formula and derive an end of year 2009 population estimate.

In 2008 there were 304,375,000 in the US. There were also (4,263,000 births minus 2,486,000 deaths= 1,777,000 Natural Increase). Add to that a (Net Migration of 855,000 migrants). This equals 304,375,000 + 1,777,000 + 855,000 = 307,007,000.

Table 1 shows the results of adding ten years of US births, deaths, and net migration. Births make the highest contribution with over 45 million. Net migration contributes another 12 million. Yet there were well over 26 million deaths in the same time period.

Table 1. Total Numbers of US Births, Deaths, and Net Migration between 2000-2010
Births - Deaths + Net Migration = Population Change
45,406,347 26,784,641 12,404,095 31,025,801
*Retrieved data on 21 May, 2014 from various years and reports found SOURCE

The U.S. population and a number of other countries, continue to expand and grow. For example, Table 2 lists the 10 most populated countries of the world in 2013 with estimates for future population in 2050. The US ranks 3rd in 2013, but Nigeria makes a jump from 7th to 3rd in 2050 moving the US to rank 4th in population. Interestingly, in 2050, India will rank 1st and China 2nd. Also of interest is the fact that in 2050 the US is the only Western country in the list.

Table 2. The Ten Most Populated Countries in the World, 2013 and 2050*
*Retrieved 21 May, 2014 from Population Reference Bureau Population Data Sheet SOURCE

United States Population and Key Rates

Figure 1 shows the U.S. population for selected years between 1790 (the 1st U.S. Census) and 2013 (estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau). In the first Census, the US reported approximately 4 million inhabitants, but failed to count Natives, Blacks, and other racial groups. In the 223 years represented in Figure 1, you can see that the US population has increased more than 80 times since its first count in 1790. The US continues to grow and will keep growing.

Figure 1. Estimated Population of the United States for Selected Years 1790-2013*
*Retrieved 4 June, 2014 from Table 1: Population Bulletin, Vol. 57, No 4 What Drives US Population Growth? Dec, 2002; Statistical Abstracts of the US, 1997 Table 1; 2009; *Retrieved 21 May, 2014 from Population Reference Bureau Population Data Sheet

Compare the birth rates for the U.S. to the current highest birth rate state, Utah, and the current lowest birth rate state, Vermont, between the years 1991-2009. The Crude Birth Rate is the number of live births per 1,000 people living in the population. It is called crude because it ignores age-specific risks of getting pregnant. Figure 2 shows these rates and clearly indicates the higher rates for Utah in comparison to the US and Vermont. Before 1991, Alaska often competed with Utah for the highest state birth rate. Vermont is the lowest state rate today, but has also competed with Maine in past years.

Figure 2. Estimated Crude Birth Rates per 1,000 Population of the United States, Utah, and Vermont for Selected Years 1991-2009*
*Retrieved 4 June, 2014 from Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Sutton PD, et al. Births: Final data for 2007-2009. National vital statistics reports; vol 59-62. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2010.

There are other ways to measure births within populations. Demographers use slightly different terminology than the average person when describing a woman's ability to get pregnant. True Rate- is the "Number of events/ Number" at risk of the event. In other words, the Crude Birth Rate is not a true rate because it includes children, males, and the elderly in the denominator of "1,000 population." To demographers, Fertility is a measure of the number of children born to a woman.

Total Fertility Rate is the total number of children ever born to a woman calculated both individually and at the societal level. Fecundity is the physiological ability to conceive or give birth to children. In Table 3 you can see some of the striking differences in Crude Birth and Total Fertility Rates. To understand these data you need to understand the term, More Developed Nations are nations with comparably higher wealth than most countries of the world including: Western Europe; Canada, United States, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.

Less Developed Nations are nations located near to or south of the Equator which have less wealth and more of the world's population including: Africa, India, Central and South America, most island nations, and most of Asia (Excluding China). Until November, 2013 China had the most strict fertility policy in the world and it is often excluded from the rest of Asia in most official reports SOURCE.

Table 3. Crude Birth Rates and Total Fertility Rates for Selected Regions and Countries*reports.
Country or Region Crude Birth
Rates CBR
Total Fertility
Rates TFR
More developed 11 2.6
Less Developed 22 1.6
Africa 37 4.8
Latin America/Caribbean 19 2.2
Asia (Excluding China) 18 2.2
China 12 1.5
Liberia 42 5.7
Canada 11 1.6
Mexico 19 2.2
United States 13 1.9
European Union 11 1.0
Japan 8 1.4
World 20 2.5
*From 2013 World Population Data Sheet: Demographic Data and Estimates for the Countries and Regions of the World. Retrieved 23 May, 2014 SOURCE

Africa is the "birth hot spot" of the world and has been since about 1950. It has a projected population change, an increase of 100 percent between the years 2013-2050. A few African nations have a higher rate and some have a slightly lower rate. Uganda, for example, could experience a 263 percent increase. While Swaziland should experience a 33 percent decline. The 6.8 total fertility rate (TFR) for Liberia means that the average woman is expected to have 6.8 children there. In the U.S. it is only 2.1. This is an important indicator of population change, because there is a principle which states that it requires a minimum TFR of 2.1 for the population to replace the man and woman who made the children and a TFR of 2.3 to begin to expand the population. Thus, you can see from Table 3 that the less-developed regions of the world (especially Africa) are expected to grow, while the more developed (Japan) should not grow. Japan should decrease population size by 25 percent between 2013-2050.

Theories and Principles

Doubling Time is the time required for a population to double if the current growth rate continues. To calculate the doubling time you simply divide 70 by the current growth rate of the country, which yields the number of years required for the double. Table 4 shows the growth rates and estimated doubling times for selected countries, based on estimates in 2013. The world's population should double in 58 years. Liberia on the other hand should double its population in only 21 years. At their current growth rate, the wealthiest more developed portions of the world will take about 700 years to double in size. While a relatively small country like Liberia will take only 21 years.

Table 4. Growth rates and Doubling Times for Selected Countries 2013*
Country or Region Growth Rate Doubling Time in Years
More developed 0.2 700
Less Developed 1.4 50
Africa 2.6 27
Latin America/Caribbean 1.3 54
Asia (Excluding China) 1.4 50
China 0.5 140
Liberia 3.3 21
Canada 0.4 175
Mexico 1.5 47
United States 0.5 140
Italy -0.1 Can't Calculate
Japan -0.2 Can't Calculate
World 1.2 58
*From 2013 World Population Data Sheet: Demographic Data and Estimates for the Countries and Regions of the World. Retrieved 2 June, 2014 SOURCE

In fact, most of the world's population now lives in the less developed regions of the world and they will double in about 47 years. Approximately, 68 percent of the 6.7 billion people in the world live in less developed countries (roughly 4.56 billion people). In the year 2055 (the year 2008 + 47 years=2055) there should be 9.12 billion people living in the less developed regions of the world. The more developed regions of the world will not double until the year 2358, according to these data.

Zero Population Growth occurs when a population neither shrinks nor expands from year to year. Based on other factors in the demographic equation, including death and migration, you can see various results. To understand why some countries have higher or lower rates, you must first understand some theoretical backgrounds.

There are two distinct perspectives that relate to births in a population. Antinatalist is a perspective which opposes childbearing. Pronatalist is a perspective which promotes birth and increased population. Antinatalists oppose birth, support contraceptive, abortions, and sterilization along with the education of women. Educating a woman is the most effective way of lowering her fertility. Pronatalists support birth, large families, extended families, and the governmental support of childbearing.

The U.S. had an antinatalist perspective until President Ronald Reagan changed the U.S. foreign policy in 1984, at the population conference held in Mexico City. President Bill Clinton eventually changed it back to antinatalist. George W. Bush changed it to pronatalist and President Barack Obama changed it back to antinatalist again. After a U.S. President chooses the nation's perspective, international and local policies come into effect by supporting pro-or antinatalist programs.

The first Antinatalist was Thomas Malthus (1766-1834). He was a Reverend and English scholar from the United Kingdom, who took a strong stance against the unprepared parents of his day. To him "prepared parents" had established their education and livelihood, their household, and their marriage before they considered getting pregnant. Keep in mind that there were very few effective methods of birth control at this time, so Malthus came across as a hardliner against parenting. He published half a dozen editions of his work, An Essay on the Principles of Population (1798-1830) which were extremely controversial, yet carefully read by many influential people of his day.

For Malthus the problem was that populations grew more rapidly than the production of food, which to him was the cause of many social ills in the new industrial societies of Europe. (See Figure 3) He declared that no sex before marriage, forced sterilization, and criminal treatment of unprepared parents would be the new conservative norm.

History has shown that famines, wars, plagues, and other terrible conditions do occur. The antinatalists blame too many babies and people, too much destruction of the natural environment, the existence of the traditional family, and capitalistic profit-seeking at the cost of global well-being. A contemporary antinatalist named Paul Ehrlich wrote the book, The Population Bomb in 1968 (Ballantine Books). He is considered to be a Neo-Malthusian, or an antinatalist who agrees with Malthus, but rejects his conservative and religious proscriptions. Much of the governmental organizations in the world today are antinatalistic.

Figure 3. The Malthus Graph Depicting the Shortage That Occurs When Population Growth Exceeds Food Production Capacity.
© 2009 Ron J. Hammond, Ph.D.

The pronatalists point out that there is plenty of food in the world and always has been. They blame political and social mismanagement for the social ills, not the high birth rates. One recent report highlighted how on a global scale, we make plenty of food, we just convert it to biofuel (See Gimenez, E.H. (2012) "We Already Grow Enough Food For 10 Billion People -- and Still Can't End Hunger" SOURCE retrieved 5 June 2014). Look at Figure 4 below to see the estimated world population from 10,000 BC to 2050 AD (these are only estimated since there were very few government statistics prior to the industrial revolution).

You can clearly see that there were millions and millions of people on the earth throughout the history of the world. Pronatalists argue that for the most part, civilizations ate, lived, and thrived and still do today. When they starved it was typically some political or natural disaster factor not a Malthusian shortage that explained it. Besides, they argue, Malthus underestimated the enormous gains in medical, agricultural, environmental, political, and other sciences that have given this world the highest standard of living it has ever known. The truth is that there is ample evidence to support both antinatalist's and pronatalist's perspectives. The World Health Organization, World Bank, United Nations, United States, and all of the other more developed nations of the world are Neo-Malthusian/Antinatalistic to some degree or another. While the people of the less developed regions of the world live a pronatalist's lifestyle and thereby are mainly responsible for the rapidly increasing growth of births into the world population.

Figure 4. World Population Estimates in Millions for 10,000 BC to 2050 AD*
*Retrieved 20 June 2014 from US Census Bureau 's Historical estimates of the World's Population (10,000 BC to 1950 AD) and from Historical World Population Estimates From Year 0 to 2050 How many people have ever lived on Earth? SOURCE

Look at Table 7 below to see how fast the US and World are growing by seconds, minutes, hours, etc. In the US, every minute 7.5 US babies are born which adds up to 432 every hour and totaling up to about 3,784,320 in a year (please note that this estimate tends to be lower than the actual number reported by the US's Vital Statistics at 4.2 million births, because estimates are calculated based on previous years' rates, whereas the Vital Statistics are actual counts made 2 years after the actual data has been collected and tabulated.

In the world, every hour 15,834 babies are born adding up to 138,715,000 per year. That is a lot of babies! How do you suppose anti- and pronatalists might respond to these data? You arre probably right, totally opposite.

Table 7. United States and World Population Clocks 2013*.
Births Per: United States World
Second 0.13 4.5
Minute 7.50 271.00
Hour 450.00 16,282.00
Day 10,800.00 390,778.00
Year 3,942,00.00 142,634,000.00
Deaths Per: United States World
Second 0.08 1.80
Minute 4.60 106.00
Hour 277.00 6,390.00
Day 6,646.00 153,351.00
Year 2,425,846.00 55,973,000.00
*Retrieved 30 May, 2014 from SOURCE and SOURCE

Look at the deaths in table 6. Think about it. If you can hold your breath for 30 seconds, about 2 people will die in the US and over 50,000 will die worldwide during that same amount of time. Death is the termination of the body, its systems, and brain activity in an irreversible way. Death is a part of life. All of us are at risk of dying, but not all of us share the same risks. To be born around or below the equator, female, tribal, and non-white represents risk factors not shared by those born in the US, female, suburban, and non-white (think about Max Weber's Life Chances). In fact, in many cases migrants to the US raise their life expectancies higher than they would have been back in their less developed home countries.

Figure 5 shows the top 10 causes of death in the US. Heart disease is and has been the number 1 killer in the US for decades. More and more are dying from Cancer in the US. Heart disease and cancer have lead world-wide causes of death for decades. The top four causes are highly correlated with tobacco use. Stroke is the second cause of death worldwide. (Retrieved 25 June 2014 from the World Health Organization website SOURCE)

In less developed nations there are other significant causes of death that are not as prominent in the US, such as: Malaria, AIDS, accidents, maternal death, diarrhea, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, local exotic diseases, and other infectious and parasitic diseases. In fact, AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is much more common in Africa and parts of Asia than in any other region of the world. Heterosexuality is sex between a man and woman and is the most common way of transmitting AIDS throughout the world. Scientists from many different discipline study and track diseases such as AIDS.

Epidemiology is the scientific study of diseases, their transmission, and their management. The US has the most advanced disease tracking and epidemiological management system, which is found at the Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia . On this website you can click on "Traveler's Alerts" and choose a country to see if there are any disease concerns for tourists (SOURCE). Go to the website, pick a country and read up about their current disease concerns and shots you should get in preparation to visit another country.

Figure 5. Top 10 Major Causes of Death in the United States 2010*
*Retrieved 30 May, 2014 from CDC Leading Causes of Death 2010 SOURCE

It is in the CDC's best interest to be globally concerned and involved in disease management, because the US has many people visiting and migrating in and out. The CDC tracks a number of diseases in every country. Demographers also study a number of death-related rates. The Crude Death Rate (CDR) is the number of deaths in a given population per 1,000 people living in that population. Again, this is not a true rate because not all members of society have the same risks of dying (IE: 30 year-olds not at the same risks of death as 80 year-olds). The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births. The CDR and IMR vary greatly between countries and regions.

It should no longer surprise you to discover that the poorer regions of the world have the worst rates in almost all demographic measures. Africa has a CDR of 11 and an IMR of 68.0. China has rates of 7 and 40.0 respectively. The US has rates of 8 and 5.9. Most European countries have lower IMRs the US, most likely as a result of differences in quality medical care. To summarize these and other findings in this chapter you can conclude that: 1) more babies are born in underdeveloped nations of the world than in the developed ones; 2) more infants and other people die sooner in the less developed regions of the world than in the developed ones; and 3) most of the world's future population growth will come from the less developed regions of the world.

Table 7. Crude Death Rates and Infant Mortality Rates for Selected Countries*
Country Crude Death Rate CDR Infant Mortality Rates IMR
Africa 11 68.0
Latin America/Caribbean 6 19.0
Asia (Excluding China) 7 40.0
China 7 16.0
Liberia 9 63.0
Canada 7 4.9
Mexico 4 15.0
United States 8 5.9
Italy 10 3.2
Japan 10 2.2
World 8 40
*From 2013 World Population Data Sheet: Demographic Data and Estimates for the Countries and Regions of the World. Retrieved 2 June, 2014 SOURCE

Why is the world's population growing so rapidly in regions with the fewest resources? Part of the answer to this question is found in the Demographic Transition Theory which claims that populations go through 3 distinct stages that correspond to the onset of the Industrial Revolution with regard to changes in birth and death rates. Look at Figure 6 below to see the three stages of this theory.

Figure 6. Diagram of the Demographic Transition Theory
© 2009 Ron J. Hammond, Ph.D.

As you can see, the Demographic Transition Theory has three distinct stages. Stage 1, the Pre-Industrial Revolution Stage, encompassed the world's population up until about 1700 AD. Much of the world's population grew very slowly up to that point. That is all it could do because the high birth rates were offset by the high death rates (lots of people were born and died relatively quickly).


Stage 2 or the Industrial Revolution Stage saw the decline in death rates while birth rates remained high. This is the perfect demographic storm for population growth and this coincides with the rapid growth of populations in Western Civilizations (lots of people were born and they died later in life). The Post-Industrial Revolution, Stage 3 came with the technical and computer chip revolution that raised the standard of living so much that death rates remained low while birth rates dropped (fewer people being born and they die even later in life).

The Demographic Transition theory did describe what happened in Western Europe, Canada, The United States, Australia, and Japan. But, it does not fit so neatly in the less developed countries of the world. They never really had an Industrial Revolution, they only benefited from the European one. They never really moved fully into the technological and computer chip revolution, it spilled over gradually. Because of post-World War II medical delivery systems and because of international aid, the less developed countries of the world have had their death rates decline and their life expectancy has extended. But, their birth rates remain relatively high (as you have already read above). This is why so much of the world's future population growth will come from Africa, Latin America, Parts of Asia, and other island nations.

Very concerned antinatalistic efforts have been implemented in the less developed countries of the world over the last 40 years. Scientists can measure a gradual lowering of the birth rates as a direct result from it. But, keep in mind that however they got there, the people of less developed regions of the world are still in Stage 2 and have explosive population trends that will continue for the next 40-50 years.

Population Structures

Before we discuss migration, let's talk about the population from an age-sex structural point of view. Every population/society can be compared by an age-sex structural approach called the Population Pyramid, or the graphic representation of specified 5-year age groups within a population and by being males or females. Look at the 2000 US population pyramid in Figure 7 below. Please notice that this pyramid was available on a quick search of and represents blue for males and green for females.

A population pyramid for 2000 can tell you some interesting things about the age-sex structure of the US at that time. For one thing, even though there are slightly more females than males, their relative proportions appear about even. It also shows you the bulge of the Baby Boomers. In 2000, the Baby Boomers would have been between ages 35-49. The red arrows indicate how the Baby Boomers were in the 45-54 age groups in 2010. The high fertility rates of the years 1946-1964 echo in the bulge of this pyramid. Also, there is an interesting sex difference among the older US population. There are far more females than males in later years.

Figure 7a. United States Population Pyramid: 2000*
*Retrieved data on 1 June 2014 from Howden, L and Meyer, J. (2011) Age and Sex Composition: 2010. Table 2. pp. 4. United States Census Bureau. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Figure 7b. United States Population Pyramid: 2010*
*Retrieved data on 1 June 2014 from SOURCE Howden, L and Meyer, J. (2011) Age and Sex Composition: 2010. Table 2. pp. 4. United States Census Bureau. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Now look at Figures 8a, 8b, and 8c. It shows you smaller pyramids that portray the future disappearance of the Baby Boomers gradually over the years 2012-2060. By the year 2060 the oldest Baby Boomer would have to be 114 years old to still be alive. The Youngest Baby Boomer would be 96. These pyramids also show that there will be a similar proportion of males and females. Because birth rates are low and are remaining that way, you see a widening look as the pyramid portrays the population more as a column than a pyramid. Population pyramids can actually take on any number of shapes. But the true pyramid shape comes only when there are high birth rates (a wider pyramid in the younger ages) and people die soon (a narrower pyramid in the older years at the top of the pyramid).

Figure 8a. United States Population Projection Pyramids: 2012*
*Retrieved 4 June 2014 from SOURCE Ortman, J. (2013). U.S. Population Projections: 2012 to 2060. pp. 25-27. United States Census Bureau. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Figure 8b. United States Population Projection Pyramids: 2035*
Figure 8c. United States Population Projection Pyramids: 2060*
*Retrieved 4 June 2014 from SOURCE Ortman, J. (2013). U.S. Population Projections: 2012 to 2060. pp. 25-27. United States Census Bureau. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

As this chapter draws to a close, we must discuss the last portion of the demographic formula, Migration. If someone moves out of your country they are called emigrants. Emigration is the departure from your country of origin to reside in another. Once there, they are considered to be an immigrant. Immigration is the arrival of a foreigner into a country they will reside in and likely become a citizen of on some future date. The US has far more immigrants (arrivals) than emigrants (departures) every year.

Why do people decide to move from one country to another? Demographers consider two very important factors in understanding migration: push and pull. Push Factors are negatives aspects of where you live which make you consider leaving. Pull Factors are positive aspects of another place which draw you to migrate to it. Push factors include wars, famines, political hostility, natural disasters, and other harsh circumstances that create an environment conducive to looking for another place to live. Pull factors include economic prosperity, jobs, food, safety, asylum, and the hope of survival that draws people to move to the desired location. About 1 in 6 people in the US move each year. College students, job seekers, transferees, divorcees, and most recently people needing to live with extended family, because of tough economic times all contribute to the migration process within the United States. As we finish the demography chapter, keep in mind that demography affects everything and everything affects demography.

Additional Reading

Using your Internet search browser search out the key words in these questions

  • Why are China, Brazil, Russia, and India referred to as being "BRIC" countries (What do they have in common)? LINK
  • Why does the conversion of food into fuel as reduce the amount of food available for consumption?
  • Look at the hunger and food insecurity LINK and LINK
  • China and India Population Pyramids LINK
  • Watch US population Pyramid change 1951-2010 LINK
  • Why is the population of the world moving toward urban locations more than rural ones? LINK
  • Vital Statistics report on Fetal Mortality LINK
  • CDC Causes of Death LINK
  • Population Reference Bureau (PRB) LINK (look for Population data Sheet)
  • PRB on Migration LINK
  • PRB on Sex-selection LINK
  • American Community Survey Data LINK
  • US Real Time Population Clocks LINK
  • Population Pyramids for Developing (poorer) countries LINK
  • Population Pyramids for Developed (wealthier) countries LINK
  • World real Time Population Clocks LINK

About China’s Demography

Why are the demographers warning that China’s population of children will not increase very rapidly even though it is legal to have more than one child now (Since 2013)?

China’s 4-2-1 problem LINK


China has too many bachelors "Already, 41 million bachelors will not have women to marry. If nothing is done to change this trend, Poston noted, by 2020 there will be 55 million extra boys in China." LINK

Gender Bias in China LINK

US Census LINK

Wikipedia Oldest Living People Wikipedia page LINK

Wikipedia List of Known Antinatalist LINK


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