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Global Population

Global Population

Author: Zach Lamb

Recognize the effect of population growth on demographic divide, urbanization, and the evolution of cities.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. Welcome to sociological studies. How are you doing?

In this lesson, we're going to discuss some aspects of population growth, and we're going to discuss some other aspects of demography, specifically the demographic divide. And we'll finish with discussing the evolution of cities. Cities house many, many people, so cities have impacts for demography as well.

First, let's introduce zero population growth. Zero population growth means that we keep population at a steady and consistent level. Population is not growing too fast or it's not falling too fast. The rate of births approximately equals the rate of deaths, but what could be sociologically interesting about zero population growth? Well sociologists are interested in the relationship between population and society, and for instance with zero population growth, it's only possible in our modern societies because we have great education systems. Mothers are largely educated relative to much poorer countries in the world. We have access to many more contraceptives than other poorer countries in the world, and culturally we tend to marry later, and both parents typically work. So this makes it possible, then to have a system of direct replacement about, meaning you have a male, female has a child, well they have two kids so they directly replace each other. So it's not like they're having five kids and population's expanding. In modern societies, we hover around zero population growth.

This is not the case, though, in foreign countries such that we see what's called a demographic divide in society. So we see a demographic divide in global society, which are large differences between different countries' birth and death rates, producing then this demographic divide. So countries that restrain the freedom of women to make choices about what they want to do with their lives, who do they want to marry, or if they want to marry at all. Countries that restrain the choice of women to chart their own way in life have higher birth rates and greater populations than do countries in which women have many choices. So greater population growth then only exacerbates already existing problems of poverty. So we see two models of demography in the world, and that's behind this idea of the demographic divide.

In the second half of the lesson, I'd like to shift gears and discuss cities, and discuss how cities have evolved through the history of human society. Let's go all the way back to hunting and gathering societies. These societies were nomadic as we've talked about in other tutorials. They moved around a lot, and they didn't set up any permanent settlements. So given that they were nomadic and they moved, how could they have cities? They didn't. And so we lived like this for many years.

And up until about 10,000 years ago with the agricultural revolution, that's when we had our first cities, because this enabled us to become more sedentary. We set up roots because we could domesticate crops, and we could domesticate animals. And so then that enabled us to stay in one place and set up cities. These cities though, were nothing like the cities of today. They were much smaller. However though, as the centuries passed, we became more urban. Cities were thriving in Egypt and in Europe 5,000 years ago and in China some 4,000 years ago.

Cities then and especially in this model of domestic agriculture, cities set up trade. Cities facilitated trade because they offered a place for people to come meet and to trade with each other. And because we were producing food agriculturally, we were doing it more efficiently, and we had more of a food surplus. So this enabled fewer people to be involved in the production of food to feed a larger number of people. So people could specialize and do other tasks. They could take up carpentry and building shelters and building buildings in the city. They could be chefs or bakers, and they could cook. People could work with metal. So then cities provided a place for all of these different occupational groups to cohabitate, to thrive and then to trade their products with each other. This continued until the Industrial Revolution, which was a second wave of urban expansion.

The Industrial Revolution caused urbanization to tick up even farther. Urbanization is the process of more and more people moving into cities. So with the Industrial Revolution, factories became concentrated in cities, and all the former serfs, people who were living under the feudal lord, once the feudal lords closed off their systems, all of the serfs then were cast out. Well where did they go? They went to the cities to look for work in industrial factories. So we were transformed then into an urban, industrial laboring class and this continued.

Urbanization has dramatically continued with the development of capitalism as capitalism has matured. If you count suburbs and exurbs, even farther ring suburbs, a huge portion of the population now lives in cities, and many see this trend continuing. So urbanization is here to stay, most argue.

This has been an introduction to some ideas of demography, the demographic divide with zero population growth on the one half, characterizing wealthier countries and a higher population growth in less wealthy countries. So we finished then with a discussion of the evolution of cities.

Have a great rest of your day.

Terms to Know
Demographic Divide

The large difference between countries' birth and death rates.

Evolution of Cities

The process by which human cities have evolved throughout our history.


The process of urban population growth, of more and more people living in cities.

Zero Population Growth

Occurs when the rate of population growth is not too big or too small, but maintains the population at a consistent level.