Global Problems of Population Growth

About the Course

This survey course introduces students to the important and basic material on human fertility, population growth, the demographic transition and population policy. Topics include: the human and environmental dimensions of population pressure, demographic history, economic and cultural causes of demographic change, environmental carrying capacity and sustainability. Political, religious and ethical issues surrounding fertility are also addressed. The lectures and readings attempt to balance theoretical and demographic scale analyzes with studies of individual humans and communities. The perspective is global with both developed and developing countries included.

View class sessions »

Course Structure

This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 75 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2009.

Course Materials

Download all course pages [zip - 10MB]

Video and audio elements from this course are also available on:

About Professor Robert Wyman

Robert Wyman is Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale. Educated at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, his research has been in neuro-genetics: how genes build the brain. Recent articles in that field have appeared in Journal of Cell Science, Journal of Neuroscience, and Glia. Since Yale produces so many political and societal leaders, Professor Wyman believes students should be educated in the major world issues. Population is probably the most important of these issues as it is a major driver of both human and environmental misery. Publications in this field have appeared in Population and Development Review and Population and Environment.

Share This Course:

Syllabus

Professor

Robert Wyman, Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Description

This survey course introduces students to the important and basic material on human fertility, population growth, the demographic transition and population policy. Topics include: the human and environmental dimensions of population pressure, demographic history, economic and cultural causes of demographic change, environmental carrying capacity and sustainability. Political, religious and ethical issues surrounding fertility are also addressed. The lectures and readings attempt to balance theoretical and demographic scale analyzes with studies of individual humans and communities. The perspective is global with both developed and developing countries included.

Texts

Bible, New International Version. [Colorado Springs]: Biblica, 2011. (BibleGateway.com). The Creation: Genesis 1, Dust to Dust: Genesis 3:19, Onan: Genesis 38:8; Deuteronomy 25:5,  Abortion: Exodus 21:22, Jump for Joy: Luke 1:24 :26 :36; Jeremiah 1:4-5.

Birdsall, Nancy and Steven Sinding. Why Population Matters. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Boserup, Ester. Woman's Role in Economic Development. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1970.

Bumiller, Elizabeth. May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons: A Journey among the Women of India. New York: Ballantine Books, 1991.

Campbell, Neil A., Jane B. Reece and Lawrence G. Mitchell. Biology, 5th edition. Menlo Park, CA: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1999.

Carlson, Elof. Mendel's Legacy: The Origin of Classical Genetics. Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Laboratory Press, 2004.

Cohen, Joel E. How Many People Can the Earth Support. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995.

Dash, Leon. When Children Want Children. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.

De Waal, Frans. Our Inner Ape. New York: Penguin Books, 2005.

De Waal, Frans. Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.

Faundes, Anibal and Jose Barzelatto. The Human Drama of Abortion: A Global Search for Consensus. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2006.

Forsyth, Adrian. A Natural History of Sex. The Ecology and Evolution of Sexual Behavior. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1986.

Gilbert, Scott. Developmental Biology, 7th edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates Inc., 2003.

Gillis, John R., Louise A. Tilly and David Levine. Introduction to The European Experience of Declining Fertility 1850-1970: The Quiet Revolution. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1992.

Goodall, Jane. The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns and Behavior. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986.

Harrison, Paul. The Third World: Population, Environment, and a Sustainable World. New York: Penguin Books, 1993.

Harrison, Paul. The Third Revolution: Environment, Population and a Sustainable World. London: I B Tauris & Co Ltd, 1992.

Hurtado, A. Magdalena and Kim Hill. Ache Life History: The Ecology and Demography of a Foraging People. Hawthorne: Aldine Books, 1996.

Keeley, Lawrence. War before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Kenney, Paul. Preparing for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.

Lidz, Theodore and Ruth W. Lidz. Oedipus in the Stone Age: A Psychoanalytic Study of Masculinization in Papua New Guinea. Madison: International Universities Press, 1989.

Livi-Bacci, Massimo. A Concise History of World Population: An Introduction to Population Processes. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001.

Luker, Kristin. Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Luker, Kristin. Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984.

Mohr, James C. Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Mosher, Steven. Mother's Ordeal: One Woman's Fight Against China's One-Child Policy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

Noonan, John T. The Morality of Abortion. An Almost Absolute Value in History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970.

Peterson, Dale and Richard Wrangham. Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

Rogers, Everett and D. Lawrence Kincaid. Communication Networks: Toward a New Paradigm for Research. London: Collier MacMillan Publishers, 1981.

Smith, Robert J. and Ella Wiswell. The Women of Suya Mura. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Teitelbaum, Michael and Jay Winter. The Fear of Population Decline. Orlando: Academic Press, 1985.

Thompson, Sharon. Going All the Way; Teenage Girls' Tales of Sex, Romance, and Pregnancy. New York: Hill and Wang, 1995.

Tuchman, Barbara. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. New York: Knopf, 1978.

Weeks, John R. Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, 8th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2002.

Ying, Hong. Daughter of the River. Translated by Harold Goldblatt. New York: Grove Press, 1998.

Articles

Barrionuevo, Alexei. "Amid Abuse in Brazil, Abortion Debate Flares." The New York Times, 27 March 2009.

Belanger, Daniele and Andrea Flynn. "The Persistence of Induced Abortion in Cuba." Studies in Family Planning, no. 40 (2009), pp. 13-26.

Belanger, Daniele. "Son Preference in a Rural Village in North Vietnam." Studies in Family Planning, 33 (2002), pp. 324-332.

Berelson, Bernard and Ronald Freedman. "A Study in Fertility Control." Scientific American, 21, pp. 29-37.

Bermingham, John. "Poor Countries Have Many Problems: Economic Development Is not an Easy Job." The Tanzania Times (March 1997), pp. 5-14.

Bledsoe, Caroline, Fatoumatta Banja and Allan Hill. "Reproductive Mishaps and Western Contraception: An African Challenge to Fertility Theory." Population and Development Review, 24, pp. 15-18, 20 and 33-45.

Bloom, David and David Canning. "How Demographic Change Can Bolster Economic Performance in Developing Countries." World Economics, Vol. 4, no. 4 (2003), pp. 1-13.

Bryant, John. "Theories of Fertility Decline and Evidence from Development Indicators." Population and Development Review, no. 33 (2007), pp. 101-104 and 122-124.

Caldwell, John, Pat Caldwell and Peter McDonald. "Policy Responses to Low Fertility and Its Consequences: A Global Survey." Journal of Population Research, 19 (2002), pp. 1-20.

Caldwell, Pat and John Caldwell. "High Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa." Scientific American (May 1990), pp. 118-125.

Caldwell, Pat, John Caldwell and I.O. Orubuloye. "The Destabilization of the Traditional Yoruba Sexual System."Population and Development Review, 17, pp. 231-238.

Coale, Ansley and Susan Watkins. The Decline of Fertility in Europe: The Revised Proceedings of a Conference on the Princeton European Fertility Project, pp. 38 and 420-449.

Cohen, Susan A. "Delayed Marriage and Abstinence-until-Marriage: On a Collision Course." The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, Vol. 7, no. 2 (June 2004).

Daley, Suzanne. "Screening Girls for Abstinence in South Africa." The New York Times, 17 August 1999.

De Waal, Frans. "Bonobo Sex and Society." Scientific American (March 1995), pp. 82-88.

Deutsch, Claudia. "A Not-So-Simple Plan to Keep African Girls in School." The New York Times, 12 November 2007.

Diamond, Jared. "Sex and the Female Agenda." Discover (September 1993), pp. 86-93.

Doolittle, Amity. "The Unseen, Unheard and Misunderstood: What Can We Learn from the Social History of Property Relations?" Tropical Resources: The Bulletin of the Yale Tropical Resources Institute, no. 21 (Spring 2002), pp. 4-5.

Dreifus, Claudia. "On the Ground and in the Water: Tracing a Giant Wave's Path." The New York Times, 25 December 2007.

Family Portrait: A Clan Keeps on Growing. National Geographic (March 2001).

Geertz, Clifford. "Book Review: A Society without Fathers or Husbands. The Na of China." The New York Review of Books, Vol. 48, no. 16, 18 October 2001.

Gladwell, Malcolm. "Dr. Rock's Error." The New Yorker, 13 March 2000, pp. 52-63.

Haberman, Clyde. "Let Others Hit the Panic Button; Caviar's Served." The New York Times, 6 January 2006.

Hardin, Garrett. "The Tragedy of the Commons." Science, Vol. 162, no. 3859, 13 December 1968, pp. 1243-1248.

Henshaw, Stanley. "Review of 'The Human Drama of Abortion.'" Studies in Family Planning, Vol. 38, no. 2 (2007), pp. 141-142.

Hertsgaard, Mark. "Our Real China Problem." The Atlantic Monthly (November 1997), pp. 1-17.

Higgins, Matthew and Jeffrey Williamson. "Age Structure Dynamics in Asia and Dependence on Foreign Capital."Population and Development Review, no. 23 (June 1997), pp. 261-293.

Hitt, Jack. "El Salvador: Pro-Life Nation." The New York Times Magazine, 9 April 2006.

Jehl, Douglas. "Arab Honor's Price: A Woman's Blood." The New York Times, 20 June 1999.

LaFraniere, Sharon. "Another School Barrier for African Girls: No Toilet." The New York Times, 23 December 2005.

Langer, William. "Checks on Population Growth: 1750-1850." Scientific American (February 1972), pp. 92-99.

Langer, William. "Europe's Initial Population Explosion." Harvard Today (Spring 1964), pp. 2-10.

Lee, James and Wang Feng. "Malthusian Models and Chinese Realities: China's Demographic System 1700-2000."Population and Development Review, 25 (1999), pp. 33-65.

Lloyd, Cynthia. "Investing in the Next Generation: The Implications of High Fertility at the Level of the Family." In R. Cassen, ed. Population and Development: Old Debates, New Conclusions. Washington, D.C.: Overseas Development Council, 1994, pp. 181-202.

Nie, Yilin and Robert Wyman. "The One-Child Policy in Shanghai: Acceptance and Internalization." Population and Development Review, 31 (2005), pp. 313-336.

Onishi, Norimitsu. "Ah, The Tonic of Ginseng! Especially a $65,000 Sprig!" The New York Times, 23 August 2007.

Panayotou, Theodore. " The Population, Environment, and Development Nexus." In R. Cassen, ed. Population and Development: Old Debates, New Conclusions. Washington, D.C.: Overseas Development Council, 1994, pp. 149-152.

Perlez, Jane. "Forests in Southeast Asia Fall to Prosperity's Ax." The New York Times, 29 April 2006.

Perry, Dana Heinz. "A Wrongful Birth." The New York Times Magazine, 2 April 2006.

Philips, James F., Sajeda Amin and Gholam M. Kamal. "The Determinants of Reproductive Change in Bangladesh: Success in a Challenging Environment." World Bank Publications (June 1994), pp. 1-6 and 131-151.

Repetto, Robert. "Second India Revisited: Population Poverty and Environmental Stress over Two Decades." World Resources Institute (June 1994), pp. 11-20.

Robey, Bryant, Shea O. Rutstein and Leo Morris. "The Fertility Decline in Developing Countries." Scientific American(December 1993), pp. 60-67.

Rogers, Vaughan, Rao Swalehe and Sood Svenkerud. "Effects of an Entertainment-Education Radio Soap Opera of Family Planning Behavior in Tanzania." Studies in Family Planning, no. 30 (1999), pp. 193-211.

Rosenbaum, Janet. "Reborn a Virgin: Adolescents Retracting of Virginity Pledges and Sexual Histories." American Journal of Public Health, no. 96 (2006), pp. 1098-1103.

Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. "Death without Weeping." Natural History (October 1989), pp. 8-16.

Sciolino, Elaine. "Radicalism: Is the Devil in the Demographics?" The New York Times, 9 December 2001.

Sengupta, Somini. "In Bombay, Public Indignity Is Poverty's Partner." The New York Times, 10 February 2002.

Shorto, Russell. "The War on Contraception." The New York Times Magazine, 7 May 2006.

Teitelbaum, Michael. "The Media Marketplace for Garbled Demography." Population and Development Review, 30 (2004), pp. 317-326.

The Associated Press. "Agency Approves a Birth-Control Pill Halting Periods Indefinitely." The New York Times, 23 May 2007.

Trenholm, Christopher, Barbara Devaney, Ken Fortson, Lisa Quay, Justin Wheeler, and Melissa Clark. Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs, Final Report. Washington D.C.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., 2007.

Tropper, Jonathan. "Goodbye Too Soon." The New York Times Magazine, 6 March 2005.

U.S. Supreme Court: Roe v. Wade, 1973, pp. 16-26.

Van de Walle, Etienne. "Fertility Transition, Conscious Choice and Numeracy." Demography, 29, pp. 490-496.

Wade, Nicolas. "Books on Science: Dr. Tatiana, a Dr. Ruth with Advice for Other Species." The New York Times, 5 November 2002.

Weaver, May Anne. "Gandhi's Daughters." The New Yorker, 10 January 2000.

Wolch, Mary Jean. "Open Letter from a Catholic Birth Mother." Conscience, 17, no. 3 (1996), pp. 25-28.

Wyman, Robert. "The Projection Problem." Population and Environment, Vol. 24, no. 4 (2003), pp. 329-337.

Zezima, Katie. "Spike in School's Pregnancies Leads to Report that Some Resulted from Girls' Pact." The New York Times, 20 June 2008.

Requirements

There are two midterm examinations and a final. Each 75 minute midterm (25% of final grade each) will cover material on the preceding third of the course. The first half of the final exam (75 minutes) will cover the material from the last third of the course (25% of final grade). The second half of the final (also 75 minutes) will contain comprehensive questions (25% of final grade). Students have the option of submitting a paper of 10-20 pages (double spaced) in lieu of taking the second half of the final (25% of final grade).

Grading

Midterm examination 1: 25%
Midterm examination 2: 25%
Final examination: 50%

Survey

Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts about this course through the survey linked below. We also invite you to provide general feedback about Open Yale Courses by visiting the Feedback area of the site.

Take the survey

Join a Study Group

Through a pilot arrangement with Open Yale Courses, OpenStudy offers tools to participate in online study groups for a selection of Open Yale Courses, including MCDB 150. If you wish to participate in one of these study groups, you will need to register for a free account with OpenStudy.

View study group

OpenStudy is not affiliated with Yale University. For more information regarding Open Yale Courses linking policy, please consult the Terms of Use.

Course Books and Other Related Titles

Yale University Press offers a 10% discount on the books used in MCDB 150 that it publishes, as well as on other related titles. A portion of the proceeds from your purchases will be donated for the ongoing support and development of the Open Yale Courses program.

View the catalog for this course