The Floating University

Review Questions

  1. (1.) Is there a single population problem? Are numbers of people the only problem? Or are there many different population problems about different aspects of populations, in different places, and at different times? Do the rich countries have population problems?
  2. (2.) What distinguishes demography from journalism about population problems?
  3. (3.) Where do demographic data come from? Can you think of unconventional sources of information that could be used as demographic data?
  4. (4.) Why do demographers use mathematical models?
  5. (5.) In round numbers, how many fold has the human population grown since the inventions of agriculture after the last Ice Age about 14,000 years ago? How many fold since 1800? How many fold since 40 years ago? Compare these increases with what you know about increases in other populations, e.g., of your home town, the United States, the trees in your nearest park, the number of cell phones (the first public cell phone call was made in 1973), automobiles in America. How can you compare the growth of populations that are observed over different time intervals?
  6. (6.) What is exponential growth? Did the human population grow exponentially over the last 2,000 years? Can you think of any population that grew exponentially for a long time? Can any population grow exponentially forever?
  7. (7.) Is the global human population today growing faster than ever before (as a percent per year, or in absolute numbers per years)? Is today’s global human population growth rapid compared to most of human historical experience? Are populations increasing uniformly everywhere?
  8. (8.) In which continent(s) is human population growth currently fastest? Are these among the richest or the poorest areas of the world? What’s the general relationship between the level of fertility of a country and its level of income per person? Why might this relationship be true?
  9. (9.) What is replacement level fertility? Why does it matter? When did more than 50% of the world’s women first live in countries where fertility was below replacement level? How is it possible for more than half of the world’s women to have fertility below replacement level while the world’s population continues to grow by more than 75 million people a year?
  10. (10.) Why are global averages misleading in demography (and most other subjects, too!)? Does this question relate to the earlier question about whether there is just one population problem?
  11. (11.) How could the world’s population problems be related to the world’s economic problems of unequally distributed poverty and wealth? Can everyone who wants contraception afford it? Does everyone who can afford contraception use it effectively?
  12. (12.) How is demographic change connected with climate change? How does rapid economic growth affect the interaction between population and climate?
  13. (13.) What are the correlations between education and level of fertility? Can demographers state with assurance what causes what in these correlations?
  14. (14.) What are the four major trends in global population over the next half century or so? How could these trends interact with one another? How could actions now influence these trends?
  15. (15.) Is the demographic future sensitive to small changes in the average numbers of children born per parent? Why? Why does it matter? Is massive population growth inevitable?
  16. (16.) What are the familial, social, economic, environmental, and cultural (including military) consequences of continuing declines in the numbers of children per mother?
  17. (17.) How do household sizes affect energy demand as much as the numbers of people?
  18. (18.) How does city life affect the provision and use of contraception? Passenger transport? Energy for heating homes and businesses?
  19. (19.) In what regions will most future cities need to be built? How massive is the need? What hazards (natural and human-created) do cities create and suffer from? How do cities and food supplies interact?
  20. (20.) In what ways do human populations depend on other living populations?
  21. (21.) Is there a food problem now? Can we grow enough food to feed everyone adequately now and in the next half century? Does a rich country like the U.S. have food problems?