Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism

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Population and Population Growth

In Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism we suggest that debate over the consequences of population growth involves as much ideology as it does empirical study; that many arguments about population growth tend to mask other agendas including protecting the way of life of members of core countries, and blaming countries on the periphery for problems that are not of their making.  The following sites all will provide information on population growth, but if you are interested in the ideology issue, contrast the sites, Ideology of Population Concerns, with International Society of Malthus.

6 Billion Human Beings: An Interactive Game about Population

This interactive exhibit from the Musee de l’Homme in Paris is the place to learn about some basic principles of population growth.  You provide some personal information, and you can find out what the world was like when you were born and what it may be like as you age.  And it explains why. You will find out how such cultural factors as age at marriage, breastfeeding, and birth control influence fertility rates.   Excellent presentation, but be aware of some biases; for example, the exhibit attributes the rapid population growth of the past century almost entirely to declining death rates.   However, as we discuss in Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, there is evidence that population began to climb rapidly well before modern health practices intervened and that the increase was due to changing economic and social patterns associated with industrialization and colonialism.  Thus population began rapidly increasing in Europe in the eighteenth century and in other areas of the world in the nineteenth century.


Maintained by the Population Reference Bureau (see the November 17, 1999 _Scout Report for the Social Sciences_, AmeriStat provides "instant summaries—in graphics and text—of the demographic characteristics of the U.S. population." These demographic snapshots can be customized by the user and provide statistics on such topics as population estimates and projections, marriage and family, education, race and ethnicity, income and poverty, migration, fertility, children, foreign-born population, older population, and more. The different sections offer relevant links to US Census data, and the site provides a link to the Population Reference Bureau. Demographers at the University of Michigan and SUNY - Albany also contribute to the site. [ Scout Report for Social Sciences & Humanities -- May 1, 2001]

An Aging World: 2001 [.pdf]

This new 190-page release from the Census Bureau and the National Institute of Aging (NIA) presents comparative data related to aging, including population and projected population internationally, life expectancy, retirement, health information, and social support. The report was, in part, inspired by a review from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that argued for an international focus on aging as an aid to policymakers worldwide. The main body of the report is broken into eleven chapters, covering topics ranging from urban versus rural populations to marital status to income security. Appendices include detailed tables, references, an international comparison of urban versus rural definitions, and sources and limitations of the data. (Scout Report 12/21/01)

Brief review of world basic demographic trends

Excellent review by Ya-Lin Liu and Gene Shackman of global demographic trends with links to primary resources.  You can also find additional links at their main site to socio-demographic trends and long-term population and economic trends, among other things.  

Demographics of an Aging Population

If fertility rates are truly declining, one consequence will be an aging population; that is as fewer young enter the population, the average age will increase.   This has numerous implications.  For example, as the population ages, health care costs are likely to increase, an issue you can examine at the Web site on The Looming Crisis: Meeting the Needs of an Aging Nation.  But at the Demographics of an Aging Population site you can browse and discover the global implications of an aging population.

Demography & Population Studies

A comprehensive list of links to demographic and population studies on the Internet.

"Expenditures on Children by Families, 1999 Annual Report" [.pdf, 25 pages]
USDA Press Release

In Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism we examine the relationship between population growth and the cost of children.  This report from the USDA indicates that each middle-income family will require $160,140 over seventeen years for food, housing, and other basic necessities. Further projections are provided according to income; lower income families raising a child can expect to spend $117,390, and upper income families will likely pay $233,850 per child. The cost of child-rearing has increased only two percent since last year, according to the report. The site includes previous reports for 1995-1998.

Ideology of Population Concerns: The X Files (A must read!)

A remarkable site dedicated to exposing the sometimes racist, ethnocentric, and xenophopic agenda lurking in the so-called population debate.  As we point out in Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, not all people who are alarmed about population growth are racist; however the alarms about population growth often mask the real origins of problems for which population growth is blamed.  For an excellent article that explores the connection behind alarmist projections about population control and racist and imperialist agendas, check out Population Control, Racism, & Imperialism--The Connection.

Essay on Population and Consumption

An excellent piece by Francisco J. Mata and Larry J. Onisto on the contribution to pollution of consumption as opposed to population growth.   What characteristics of countries, according to the article, most contribute to environmental degradation? According to the authors, which countries have the greatest responsibility for reducing environmental damage?

The Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement [Flash]

This new online exhibit and archive from the DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (reviewed in the February 19, 1999 _Scout Report_) documents the troubling history of the American Eugenics Movement. The movement, which began in 1904 and was most active in the first few decades of the century, sought to apply Mendel’s laws to breed better human beings by encouraging people with "good" genetic stock to reproduce and discouraging people with "bad" stock. Data and writings produced by the movement were used to justify "social legislation to separate racial and ethnic groups, restrict immigration from southern and eastern Europe, and sterilize people considered ‘genetically unfit,’" as well as serving as a model for Nazi racial ideology. (Scout Report, 2/18/2000)

International Database Population Pyramids--US Census Bureau

U.S. Census Bureau site that allows you to access the population pyramid of countries around the world for past years, as well as future projections.

International Society of Malthus

A good site to find material representing a Malthusian or neo-Malthusian perspective on the issue of population growth.  What the site seems to neglect pointing out is that Malthus was less interested in explaining population growth than he was in finding an explanation for poverty.  His approach essentially laid the blame for poverty at the feet of the poor, thus conveniently neglecting the affects of industrial expansion (see Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, p 156ff).

KZPG Overpopulation News Network

"KZPG has the world's most comprehensive set of email lists, most extensive web site, and most advanced discussion forums dedicated to stopping population growth."   The site contains an excellent list of news stories and short summaries of articles.

Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses from 1790 to 2000 [.pdf]

Since 1790, a US population tally has been administered and recorded every ten years. Measuring America, recently released by the Commerce Department's Census Bureau, documents this census of population from its initial start in 1790, when marshals counted 3.9 million US residents, to the year 2000, when the census totaled 281.4 million residents. This 149-page report traces the changes and growth of the US population by providing descriptions of the questionnaires used in each census, along with the instructions on how to complete them. The report also reveals how each census was conducted and information about its historical significance. On the whole, this document provides resourceful information for those involved with census-related research, as well as genealogists, historians, demographers, and others concerned with the evolution of the US population.

Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)

"The Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute NIDI is an independent institute engaged in the scientific study of population. Research carried out at NIDI aims to contribute to the description, analysis, explanation or prediction of demographic trends in the past, the present and the future."

Paul Ehrlich and the Population Bomb

A site produced by KQED, San Francisco on Paul Ehrlich's book, The Population Bomb.  Ehrlich was largley responsible for revising the Malthusian concerns about population growth (see Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, p 156ff).  In his later works, Ehrlich placed greater emphasis on core consumption patterns as the source of problems he initially blames on population growth, but he largely retained the rhetoric of Malthusian concerns.

Population and Reproductive Health

A new portal sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Development Gateway Foundation, this Web site is an Internet initiative that provides a community-built database of information regarding population and reproductive health. The site offers research; projects; a news service; a bulletin board; an events calendar; and population/ reproductive health project information from a shared database that includes activities by donor agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and the UNFPA. In addition, the site provides a discussion forum on reproductive health and population topics, and promotes innovative knowledge-sharing arrangements among expert organizations in the field. For researchers and book lovers, this site also contains a development bookstore where users can shop for publications on development issues from a range of publishers worldwide. Visitors to the Web site are able to sign up for free membership, which entitles them to receive regular updates on added resources.

Population Institute

Here's how the Population Institute defines its mission: "Overpopulation is a problem that impacts on virtually all human activities worldwide.... Hunger, disease, poverty, deforestation, soil erosion, ozone depletion, climatic change -- the most devastating problems we face today -- are directly attributable to or exacerbated by infinite numbers of people living in a finite world.  To raise the alarm, the Population Institute spends most of its time and budget on educating the media and the public -- everyone from college students to business and government leaders -- about the dire effects of overpopulation already upon us and the frightening consequences of letting this disaster continue on its uncontrolled course."  A good example of Malthusian thinking at its best (worst?)

Population Profile of the United States: 2000

The Population Profile of the United States: 2000 is the first Internet-only version of this US Census Bureau product. It includes data from surveys conducted in the year 2000 and earlier, as well as some limited Census 2000 data. This report attempts to provide the public with updated information in the years in which a printed version has not been issued. Chapters include population dynamics, households and housing, social characteristics, household economics, and the facets of diversity. Primary sources for this report come from the Census Bureau's Decennial Census of Population and Housing, the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), and the American Housing Survey (AHS).

Population Reference Bureau

Articles, papers, and links to other sites; Founded in 1929 the Population Reference Bureau is the oldest policy institute in the United States addressing policy concerns.

Population Research Institute

The Institute is dedicated to refuting the idea that population growth and economic development are in conflict, and in exposing human rights abuses related to population control programs.  The Institute, located in Falls Church Virginia, may have a political and/or religious agenda and has been accused of being a "hate group"; its page of links includes only organizations that agree with its agenda.  But it may be useful in providing an alternative to the Malthusian perspective evident in other places and providing an example of how population growth is treated from the right of the political spectrum.

The State of World Population 2000: Lives Together, Worlds Apart - Men and Women in a Time of Change -- UNFPA [.pdf]

Released on September 20, 2000 this year's annual report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) presents a very troubling account of systematic discrimination against women and girls around the world. This gender inequality, the report argues, brings with it economic and societal costs that harm both men and women. Key issues covered in the report include reproductive health care, gender-based violence and domestic abuse, women's rights to privacy, freedom from sexual violence, and voluntary choice in marriage and childbearing. At the site, vistors will find HTML and .pdf files of the report, graphs and charts of key facts and figures, a press kit with summaries and charts, and related links. (Scout Report 9/22/00)

State of World Population 2004 [pdf]

Sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund, the State of World Population 2004 site contains a number of important resources for persons interested in long-range and current trends regarding the world’s population.  The report itself is 124 pages, and is divided into chapters that include “Population and the Environment” and “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment”.  The report also contains a number of rather helpful graphs and tables, such as one that tracks world population growth from 1950 to 2050 and the proportion of population over age 65 by region in 2000 and 2050.  For those who may not have time to read the entire report, the site also contains an executive summary and a frequently updated news area with relevant coverage. It is worth noting that the report is also available in Russian, French, Spanish, and Arabic.

Six Billion and Beyond (PBS)

PBS offers this site as a companion to their timely airing this month of the documentary "Six Billion and Beyond." The site provides background information on the UN Summits on Population in 1994 and 1999, including interviews with prominent delegates such as Hillary Clinton and Nafis Sadik, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund. Also featured are sections focusing on population issues in six disparate nations—the US, Mexico, India, China, Kenya, and Italy— examining in each country the related topics of the environment, reproductive health, the economy, and women’s status. Both the study guide and the library, which provides online resources, are quite useful, making the site substantial enough to serve as the basis, along with an available video of the documentary, for a complete unit on population issues in a high school or college social sciences course. (Scout Report for the Social Sciences, 10/19/1999)

U.S. Census World Data

Excellent source of information for up-to-date world population information.   You can find information on historical trends, present population figures, as well as population projections.  Particularly useful is the International Data Base, a computerized data bank containing statistical tables of demographic, and socio-economic data for all countries of the world. Find out, for example, the population rank of all countries for any year from 1950 to 2050.

Worldwide Directory of Population Institutions—UN POPIN [Frames]

Comprehensive list compiled by the United Nations of groups addressing population issues. 

World Population: A Guide to the WWW

Richard Jensen's compilation of WWW sites pertaining to population and population growth.  Categories of sites include general resources, country population overviews, cases studies, fertility, morbidity, migration, urbanization, and policy perspectives.

World Population Estimates and Projections—UN

The United Nations Population Information Network (POPIN) contains information on population, population estimates as well as studies on population growth.  An excellent site for up-to-date demographic information.

World Population Profile: 1998 [.pdf, 167p., .WK1, .zip]

"Just released on the Web by the US Census Bureau, this report offers "a comprehensive assessment of world demographic prospects as we approach the end of this century and the beginning of the next." The report highlights major demographic trends and the roles played by the developed and developing nations in these trends, and identifies some of the key elements and questions behind global population change. In addition, the report features a special chapter on one of the most important health and demographic events of modern history: the worldwide HIV/AIDS pandemic." (Scout Report, 3/19/99)


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