Human Population Growth










Dr. William S. Abruzzi



Required Text:


1.      Ester Boserup, The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change under Population Pressure. Earthscan Publications (1992) (original 1965).

2.      Frank Furedi, Population and Development: A Critical Introduction. St. Martin’s Press. 1997.

3.      Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Cambridge University Press.  2001.

4.      Mahmood Mamdani, The Myth of Population Control. New York: Monthly Review Press. 1972.



Supplemental Text:


1.      Betsy Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control & Contraceptive Choice.  NY: Harper & Row.  (1987)

2.      William W. Murdoch, The Poverty of Nations: The Political Economy of Hunger and Population.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.  (1980)

3.      John R. Weeks, Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.  (2002)



Internet Reference Sources:


1.     Population Reference Bureau

2.     Six Billion Human Beings

3.     U.N. Revision of World Population Estimates and Projections

4.    United Nations Population Division

5.    CensusScope



6.     Cairo Conference Home Page

7.     U.S. Committee on Population

8.     Population Media Center

9.     Population Index on the Web

10.   Population Research Institute

11.   Country Studies Area Handbook


12.   A Comprehensive List of International Cultural Profiles




Course Description:


This course will provide students with an introduction to the study of human population growth.  The demographic characteristics of a population, including its growth, decline, fertility, mortality and age and sex structure, fundamentally influence its other social and cultural characteristics.  We will, therefore, examine these demographic characteristics in order to explore how population growth and other demographic characteristics affect other aspects of society.  The course will explore the interaction among population, development and environmental resource exploitation from anthropological, sociological and demographic perspectives


The course will begin by examining the current controversy surrounding human global population growth.  Using this debate as a point of departure, we will focus on the importance of applying scientific methods to examine and critically evaluate the various claims made regarding population growth and the different theories proposed to explain human population growth.  We will then consider specific demographic characteristics: fertility, mortality and population structure.   We will conclude the course by examining the link between contemporary population growth, economic development and environmental resource exploitation in light of the different theories of population growth previously discussed.  Throughout the semester, the course will examine:  (1) the impact of population growth on social structure and social change; (2) the ecological and social factors that influence population growth, (3) the relation between population growth and economic development; (4) the environmental implications of population growth; (5) the impact that colonialism, industrialization and globalization have had on contemporary local, national and international populations, and (6) the implications of this research for evaluating contemporary theories of population growth and their predictions for the future.






  The following procedures will be used to arrive at a student’s final grade in this course:

1.    Mid-term exam  (multiple-choice & essay)

2.    Final exam (comprehensive multiple-choice & essay)

3.    Country reports & PowerPoint presentations

4.    Class participation






Country Reports:


1.     Students will be organized into research groups consisting of 2-3 individuals.  Each research group will be required to report on an individual country.  Each Country Report will summarize the relationship between the demographic characteristics of the country chosen and a variety of specific economic, environmental and/or health variables associated with that country.  Country Reports will be approximately 8-10 pages in length ((excluding charts, graphs, tables, illustrations and references).


2.     Each Country Report will be accompanied by a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation to the class.


3.     The PowerPoint presentations will be given at assigned times during the last four weeks of class, and the written reports will be due on the last day of class.


4.     Each student in the group will receive the same grade for the country project (both the written report and the PowerPoint presentation).  Students may choose to work on a report individually or to work in a group with one or two other students.  However, all Country Reports will be graded by the same criteria, regardless of the number of people in the group.


5.    For information on the criteria expected for both the written report and the PowerPoint presentation, click here NOTE: the reports and presentations will be strictly evaluated according to the criteria listed.



Grading Policy:


1.   ALL assignments and examinations MUST be completed or taken at the time scheduled.  Make-up tests will only be given in the event of an emergency and will receive a 10-point reduction in grade (i.e., a score of 70 on a make-up test will be recorded as a 60).  The grade on any exam not taken or assignment not completed will be zero.


2.   ALL materials assigned for reading or presented or discussed in class (including films) will be potentially included in examinations.


3.   Attendance will not be taken, but absence of class is NOT an acceptable excuse for a student's failure to complete an assignment or examination.  It is the student's responsibility to obtain the necessary information on days that he or she misses class.  In addition, a student who regularly misses class cannot expect special consideration in the event of poor grades.



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Week of:




8/26 thru  9/9

World Population Growth







Malthusian Neocolonialism (ppt)







Which of these families creates more pollution and consumes more of the earth's non-renewable resources?


This family . . .

or this family? . . .















1.    Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, Chapters 1 & 2. [R]

2.    Weeks, Population, "A Demographic Perspective" & Chapter 1. [R]

3.   Duncan, "World Energy Production, Population Growth, and the Road to Olduvai Gorge." Population and Environment (2001).



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4.     Lomborg, Skeptical Environmentalist, Parts I & II.

5.     Hartmann, "Introduction" Reproductive Rights and Wrongs. [R]

6.     Pradervand, "The Neo-Malthusian Myth." [R]

7.     Murdoch, The Poverty of Nations, Chapter 1.  [R]

8.     Simon, The Economics of Population Growth, Chapter 1. [R]

9.      Abruzzi, On Overpopulation



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11.   Hildyard, "Too Many People for What?" [R]

12.   Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, Chapters 1 & 2. [R]

13.   Liagin, "Population Control and American Foreign Policy." [R]



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14.  Furedi, "North Waging Cultural War against  South".

15.  Furedi.  Population and Development

16.  Abruzzi, "Sociopolitical Implications of the Persistent Western Concern with Global Population Growth."


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17.  Wilmoth & Ball, The Population Debate in American Popular Magazines, 1946-90. Population and Development Review (1992). [JSTOR]





Does the Overpopulation literature have the feel of . . .



?     ?     ?     ?     ?


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Thinking Critically about Population Issues




Paul Ehrlich

I have understood the population explosion intellectually for a long time.  I came to understand it emotionally one stinking hot night in Delhi, a few years ago. …  The streets seemed alive with people.  People eating, people washing, people sleeping.  People visiting, arguing, and screaming.  People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging.  People defecating and urinating.  People clinging to buses.  People herding animals.  People, people, people, people … since that night I’ve known the feel of overpopulation.


--Paul Ehrlich (1968)




Controversy Surrounding

The Skeptical Environmentalist






Science and Anthropology    

 Urban Legends Reference Page



1.   Abruzzi, "The Real Chief Seattle Was Not a Spiritual Ecologist" Skeptical Inquirer (1979)

2  Abruzzi, Contemporary Environmental Issues

3.    Ehrenreich & McIntosh, "The New Creationism." 

4.    Sagan, "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection". [R]

5.    Kunkel, "Methodological Considerations"  [R]




                 Film:  Distant Thunder [R]



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Thinking Critically (ppt)




Critical Thinking Handouts





Globalization Alert !






"The richest fifth of the world's people consumes 86 percent of all goods and services while the poorest fifth consumes just 1.3 percent. Indeed, the richest fifth consumes 45 percent of all meat and fish, 58 percent of all energy used and 84 percent of all paper, has 74 percent of all telephone lines and owns 87 percent of all vehicles."


--Kofi Annan's Astonishing Facts! 








  Yuppie Environmentalism







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10/7 & 10/14

Theories of Population Growth





Thomas Malthus




"Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits.  In our towns, we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague.  In the country we should build our villages near stagnant pools. …  But, above all, we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases."

                           --Malthus 1826




1.    Weeks,  Population, Chapter 3. [R]

2.    Kleinman, "The Malthusian Model.” [R]

3.    Kirk, "Demographic Transition Theory." Population Studies (1996) [JSTOR]

4.    Murdoch, The Poverty of Nations, Chapter 2. [R]

5.    McQuillan, "Common Themes in Catholic and Marxist Thought on Population and Development." Population and Development Review (1979) [JSTOR]

6.    Wu Ta-k'un, "A 1960 Chinese Marxist Critique of Neo-Malthusian Theory." Population and Development Review (1979) [JSTOR]

7.    Simon, The Economics of Population Growth, Chapter 8. [R]

8.    Boserup, The Conditions of Agricultural Growth.

9.    Abruzzi, Population Pressure and Subsistence Strategies among the Mbuti Pygmies. Human Ecology. (1979)  [R]

10.  Abruzzi, Materialist versus Non-Materialist Explanations of Mbuti Pygmy Subsistence Behavior. L'Homme et la Foret Tropicale.



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11. Thomas Malthus. 1826. An Essay on the Principle of Population,


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Mid-Term Exam

Sample Questions

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Mortality:  The Demography

                    of Death




1.    White and Preston, "How Many Americans Are Alive Because of Twentieth-Century Improvements in Mortality?" Population and Development Review (1996) [JSTOR]

2   Barrett, et. al. Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases: The Third Epidemiological Transition. Annual. Review of. Anthropology 1998 , Vol. 27: 247-271.  [R]

3.    Vaupel, Demographic Analysis of Aging and Longevity. The American Economic Review (1998) [JSTOR]





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10/28 & 11/4

Fertility:   The Demography

                   of Life










1.    Caldwell, "Towards a Restatement of Demographic Transition Theory" [JSTOR]

2.    Mamdani, The Myth of Population Control.

3.    Kokole, "The Politics of Fertility in Africa." Population and Development Review (1994)     [JSTOR]

4.    Murdoch, The Poverty of Nations, Chapter 3.

5.    Becker, "An Economic Analysis of Fertility." [R]

6.    White, “The Economic Importance of Children in a Javanese Village.” [R]

7.    Cain, "The Economic Activities of Children in Bangladesh." Population and Development Review (1977)  [JSTOR]

8.    Nag, White, & Peet, An Anthropological Approach  to the Study of the Economic Value of Children in Java and Nepal." Current Anthropology (1978) [JSTOR]  

9.    Hass, "We Are Family: Mom, Dad and Me." [R]

10.  Srinivas, ""Modernization, Contraception and Fertility Change in India." International Family Planning Perspectives (1988).  [JSTOR]

11.  Lee, “Population Growth and the Beginnings of Sedentary Life among the !Kung Bushmen.”[R]

12.  Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, Chapters 7, 8 & 12. [R]

13.  Sieff, "Explaining Biased Sex Ratios in Human Populations". Current Anthropology (1990) [JSTOR]

14.  Smith & Smith, Inuit Sex-Ratio Variation: Population Control, Ethnographic Error, or Parental Manipulation? Current Anthropology 1994 [JSTOR]




*     *     *     *     *



15.  Berelson & Lieberson, "Government Efforts to Influence Fertility: The Ethical Issues." Population and Development Review (1979). [JSTOR]

16.  Jonathan Swift, "A Modest Proposal."



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11/11 & 11/18

Population Growth and

Economic Development




Julian Simon



1.    Wiarda, “Toward a Non-ethnocentric Theory of Development: Alternative Conceptions from the Third World.”  [R]

2.    Lappe' and Collins, "Why Can't People Feed Themselves?" [R] 

3.    "Famine's Causes: Want and War." [R]

4.    Weeks, Population, Chapter 12, pages 463-491. [R]

5.    Murdoch, The Poverty of Nations, Chapters 8 & 9 [R]

6.    Brown, "Who Will Feed China?" World Watch (1994) [R]

7.    Mortimore, "The Intensification of Peri-Urban Agriculture: The Kano Close-Settled Zone, 1964 - 1986. in Turner et. al., Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Africa. [R]

8.    Paarlberg, "The Politics of Agricultural Resource Abuse." Environment (1994). [Academic Search Premier]

9.    Kates, et. al., "Theory, Evidence, Study Design," Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Africa. [R]

10. Okoth-Ogendo & Oucho, "Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Kisii District, Kenya: A Sustained Symbiosis?" in Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Africa. [R]





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11/25 & 12/2

Population Growth and

the Environment






On Global Warming


1.     "Global Warming", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

2.     "Global Warming." National Resource Defense Council.

3.     "Two Sides, Two Data Sets", Science

4.     "Global Warming: Does It Exist?  If So, Is It man or Sun-made?" Solar Center, Stanford University.

5.     Cromie, "Brightening Sun is Warming Earth. Harvard University Gazette.

6.     Kirby, "Animals Retreat as Antarctic Cools." BBC News

7.     Global Warming Information Page.

8.     "A Paleo Perspective on Global Warming." National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).





1.    Weeks, Population, Chapter 12: 491-509. [R]

2.    Pimentel,, "Impact of Population Growth on Food Supplies and Environment."  

3.    Bongaartz, Population Growth and Global Warming. Population and Development Review. (1992) [JSTOR]

4.    Garrett Hardin, "The Tragedy of the Commons"

5.    Mortimore and Tiffen, "Population Growth and a Sustainable Environment." Environment (1994). [R]

6.    Harris, "Agricultural intensification in West Africa: Nutrient dynamics in the Kano close-settled zone."

8     Abruzzi Contemporary Environmental Issues.

9.    Murdoch, The Poverty of Nations, Chapter 10. [R]

10.  Baliunas, "Why So Hot? Don't Blame Man, Blame the Sun."




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On Species Extinction


1.     Wilson, et. al., "Biodiversity Distortions in Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist

2.     Mann, Extinction: Are Ecologists Crying Wolf? Science (1991)

3.     Stevens, "Species loss: Crisis or False Alarm?" [R]

4.     Mass Extinctions of the Phanerozoic Menu




On Ozone Depletion


1.     EPA: The Science of Ozone Depletion.

2.     NASA: Stratospheric Ozone Depletion

3.     Rensberger, “A Reader’s Guide to the Ozone Controversy.” The Skeptical Inquirer.




On Soil Erosion


1.     Soil Erosion

2.     Soil Erosion on Farmland

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Final Exam

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