We’ve been living in a time of unprecedented global economic growth. Depressions, recessions and other dips in the economy notwithstanding, the last century has been unlike any other before in terms of overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita growth. It’s the result of a potent combination of technology, via the Industrial Revolutions, and economic and political freedom and stability, thanks to the spread of democracy.

But the heady days of rapidly rising prosperity may be coming to an end, according to an interdisciplinary group of scientists at UC Santa Barbara and the University of Colorado Boulder. Developed democracies in particular look to be first in line for a long-run economic slowdown through the 21st century, and that, according to the researchers, should prompt some preparation for the additional fiscal and social stress that it will bring.

“Long-run slowdowns in growth in  are inevitable for a bunch of reasons that we really don’t have control over,” said Matthew Burgess, the lead author of a paper that appears in the journal Nature Human Behaviour. “Nobody can say for sure exactly what’s going to happen, but there’s this long-term pattern of declining growth that has been visible since the middle of the last century.”

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