POPULATION, URBANIZATION, AND THE ENVIRONMENT
To understand the differences between the major demographic tools: crude birth rate, fertility
rate, and migration rate.
To discuss the demographic transition model.
To be able to express population trends in terms of the major sociological perspectives.
To discuss the differences between urbanization in the developing world and urbanization in
the developed world.
To describe the contributions of Wirth and Redfield to the understanding of urbanization.
To discuss the impact of population growth and industrial expansion on the environment, as
well as strategies to counteract negative effects.
To be able to understand the fate of the American city, its past and its future.
To describe the concept of sustainable development, especially regarding the role of cities
and the status of women.
I. Population: Demographic Interdependence
A. Studying Population: Demographic Tools
B. Understanding Development: The Demographic Transition
C. Explaining Population Trends: Sociological Theory
A. Global Urbanization
B. Urbanization in the United States
D. Decline or Renaissance of the Central City
E. Sociological Explanations for Urban Trends
F. Urbanism as a Way of Life
III. Environment: Ecological Interdependence
A. The Role of Technology
B. The Game of Ecopolitics
C. Strategies for Environmental Success
D. Sustainable Development
IV. Life Connections: Autocentric America and Urban Sprawl
V. Society Connections: Population Control
A. The Status of Women
B. Malthus Revisited
1. Demography is the scientific study of the size, distribution, and composition of
population over time. To account for changes in population, demographers study the
fertility rate—the annual number of births to women of childbearing age—as well as
other birth, death, and migration rates.
2. In Europe and North America, the Industrial Revolution caused a profound drop in
fertility and mortality rates and a corresponding increase in life expectancy, an effect that
is referred to as the demographic transition. Today, the countries of the developing world
are undergoing a similar process of industrialization and demographic change.
3. In his Essay on the Principles of Population (1798), Thomas Malthus predicted that
population growth would eventually outstrip agricultural production, causing widespread
famine and death. Malthus was pessimistic regarding people’s ability to change their
reproductive behavior in response to diminishing resources.
4. Emile Durkheim saw population growth as an incentive for the development of more
efficient means of production through specialization and the division of labor. Durkheim
stressed people’s resourcefulness and adaptability in response to demographic change.
5. Rather than population growth, Karl Marx stressed the unequal distribution of resources
in a capitalist economic system as the cause of food shortages. Like Marx, modern-day
conflict theorists and dependency theorists emphasize the maldistribution of resources
and the economic dependency of the poor on the rich.
6. About half the world’s population lives in urban areas. While the developed world is at
present more urbanized than developing countries, cities in Asia, Africa, and Latin
America are the fastest growing places in the world.
7. Both population increase and migration from impoverished rural areas are contributing to
the growth of the world’s cities. Globally, these centers of population growth and
economic activity are becoming increasingly interconnected.
8. Sociologists Louis Wirth and Robert Redfield wrote that, compared to intimate rural
communities, cities tend to foster impersonal and distant social relations. In functionalist
terms, though city dwellers seek a sense of community in formal and voluntary
associations, their residence in urban areas puts them at risk for normlessness and
9. Job loss is a major cause of breakdowns in the social fabric of the inner cities. Yet
residents of many urban neighborhoods have managed to maintain a strong sense of
community despite severe economic problems.
10. Sociologist Robert Park founded the subfield of urban ecology on the principle that in
urban areas, population density increases the competition for scarce land. Park thought
that in all cities, urban growth would radiate outward from a central business district, but
he did not foresee the modern-day trends toward decentralization and suburbanization.
11. Though industrialization benefits society by increasing people’s life chances, it has also
degraded the environment, jeopardizing the health and well-being of communities around
the world. Developing countries, with their limited resources and rapidly growing
population face a difficult tradeoff between social needs and environmental protection.
12. In the United States, the most important population trend is the flight to the suburbs,
where half the urban population now lives. The trend is threatening the viability of cities
by depriving them of jobs and taxes, undermining housing and education in the process.
13. Sustainable development is a concept that marries the goal of continuing economic
development with the need to preserve the environment.
14. The United States is a car-dependent nation: The automobile spawned suburbanization,
and the resulting urban sprawl requires an “autocentric” existence. Edge cities are
commonplace today and the automobile is the lifeline of the edge city. The greener
pastures of suburbia have been ecologically eroded. Smart growth is an efficient and
environmentally friendly strategy that coordinates land-use planning.
15. Improving the status of women is the single most effective way to slow global population
growth. The better educated women are, and the higher their status in the family and
society, the more likely they are to limit the size of their families through contraception
and family planning.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTIONS
1. Demonstrate how the idea of interdependence shapes population, urbanization, and the
environment. What roles does technology play in each of these areas?
2. How do functionalism and conflict theory explain the trend that the poor are migrating to
the cities of the developing world but the middle class and affluent are migrating out of
cities to the suburbs of the developed world?
3. How can the process of sustainable global development work to the benefit of the poor,
who are often displaced by the process?
4. What do you perceive as the future of our “autocentric America?” How do you think
“smart growth” might be beneficial?
5. From a symbolic interactionist view, what culturally appropriate methods can be
suggested for couples’ “unmet need” for contraception?
Figure 22.5 (p. 605) At each age, African Americans are more likely than whites to say the
government spends too little on the cities.
1. What effect does age have on one's view of governmental spending on the cities?
2. How do these results on spending for cities compare to those for spending on the
environment, which are shown in Figure 22.7?
Figure 22.7 (p. 609) The youngest respondents are most likely to say that the government
spends too little on the environment. At all ages, African Americans are more likely than
whites to say there is too little environmental spending.
1. Why do you suppose African Americans are more favorable than whites toward increased
governmental spending on the environment?
2. Why are the oldest Americans more satisfied than younger people with governmental
expenditures on the environment?
FILM AND VIDEO SUGGESTIONS
THE CHANGING FACE OF AMERICA AND THE WORLD
(2001, 60 minutes, Insight Media)
Summary: This video explores the rapidly changing demographic trends occurring in the United
States and around the world.
POPULATIONS ON EARTH
(2001, 24 minutes, Insight Media)
Summary: Offering an optimistic overview of population issues in the 21st century, this video
presents numerous perspectives on the controversial issues of population growth and control.
POPULATION: SIX BILLION
(1999, 58 minutes, Insight Media)
Summary: While the human population on Earth surpassed the six billion mark in 1999,
resources of every kind continue to drop to devastating levels. This video considers the grim
realities of impoverished life in developing nations.
THE URBAN EXPLOSION
(1999, 57 minutes, Insight Media)
Summary: This video travels around the globe to investigate how different cities are addressing
environmental problems that have accompanied the urban population explosion.
CITIES: ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT, NATURAL RESOURCES
(2000, 50 minutes, Insight Media)
Summary: This video addresses the problematic effects of urban growth patterns, examining
such problems as urban sprawl, mass transportation, and water quality.
UNDERSTANDING URBAN SPRAWL
(2000, 47 minutes, Films for the Humanities and Sciences)
Summary: This program examines the social, economic, and environmental implications of
BUILDING THE AMERICAN DREAM: LEVITTOWN, NY
(1994, 60 minutes, The Cinema Guild)
Summary: Levittown is the largest housing project ever assembled by a single builder. The
Levitts studied assembly line techniques and time and motion studies, they created a factory out
in the field except it was the workers who moved--producing 25 to 30 houses per day. The
American dream of home ownership was made possible for many by the creation of this
suburban community of low-cost housing.
(1995, 23 minutes, Films for the Humanities and Sciences)
Summary: Offers an easy to follow overview of the subjects of human demography, polling
techniques, defining race.
KEEPERS OF THE WATER
(1996, 38.44 minutes, Al Gedics, 210 Avon Street, #4, LaCrosse, WI 54603)
Summary: Produced and directed by Wisconsin sociologist Al Gedics, this video tells the story
of the fight against a proposed Exxon mine in northeastern Wisconsin. The mine is seen as a
threat to the Wolf River and a wild rice lake which provides traditional food for Native
HALTING THE FIRES
(1991, 52 minutes, Filmakers Library)
Summary: Millions of acres of the Amazon rain forest have gone up in flames. Massive profits
are to be had by cattle ranchers, logging is big business, mining companies have made massive
investments and the Indian people have a major health crisis. The Filmmakers make clear that it
is possible to live in the rain forest and make a living in a nondestructive way. Sustainable
alternatives are shown to work.