Graham Sustainability Institute

World Population Dynamics

SOC 430

Major demographic shifts will be examined in this course. For many centuries, world population grew very slowly, due to a general balance between the number of births and the number of deaths. Since the 18th century, the rate of growth of the world’s population has increased, due to a decline in mortality. Mortality declined first in Europe. Then, first in France and later elsewhere in Europe, fertility declined to a level close to that of mortality. Since World War II, mortality has declined in most of the less developed region of the world. In the absence of compensating declines in fertility, population growth rates in the less developed part of the world, and, consequently, in the world as a whole, increased, reaching a peak in the 1960s and 1970s. This high rate of population growth led to widespread concern about a population explosion. Since the1980s, fertility has declined in most of the less developed region of the world, although in most of the developing world, the level of fertility remains higher than the level of mortality. Some developed countries are now experiencing population decline, with most developed countries expected to experience population decline by 2020. The age structure of the populations of most countries in the world has become older, partially due to mortality declines, but especially due to fertility declines. This has led to concerns about the size of the future labor force and the source of support of a growing elderly population. International migration has increased, mainly from the less developed region of the world to the more developed region of the world. Immigration has slowed population decline in many more developed countries, although what is an acceptable level of immigration has spurred a vigorous policy debate. All of these population dynamics, the causes and the likely consequences of these changes will be examined in the course.

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