The Floating University

Video Quiz

Take this quiz to test your knowledge of Dr. Cohen's demography lecture. Find the answer key at the bottom, as well as an additional quiz on the assigned reading!

(1.) Which of the following definitions best describes the study of demography?

  • (A.) Demography studies problems of overpopulation and underpopulation in different countries.
  • (B.) Demography studies the populations of people, animals, and objects.
  • (C.) Demography studies the allocation of food resources across the planet.
  • (D.) Demography studies political and consumer preferences.

(2.) What demographic shifts are occurring that will affect the course of the next American century?

  • (A.) The Baby Boomers in the United States are becoming elderly, migration patterns into and out of the United States will change, and populations are shifting toward cities and away from rural environments.
  • (B.) The Baby Boomers in the United States are becoming elderly, cities are losing population to the suburbs and exurbs, and housing stock and durable goods like automobiles will not be able to keep up with population growth.
  • (C.) Populations are shifting toward cities and away from rural environments, the average age of the American citizen is dropping, and the United States is developing a food glut.
  • (D.) The average age of the American citizen is dropping, housing stock and durable goods like automobiles will not be able to keep up with population growth, and energy use is set to drop steadily over the next 100 years.

(3.) Which statement best characterizes the growth of the human population between 0 and 1950?

  • (A.) The human population increased in rapid intervals throughout the Dark and Middle ages, only to be routinely decimated by plague, famine, and war; after 1600 and the Renaissance population growth stabilized and grew steadily until 1800 and the Industrial Revolution, at which point the human population grew linearly until 1950.
  • (B.) The human population grew at a steady, sub-linear rate for most of the Dark and Middle Ages, until 1600, when migration to the New World and the Columbian Exchange caused a linear population explosion; after the Industrial Revolution began in 1800 population growth became exponential, until the Civil War, 19th century continental war in Europe, WWI, WWII, and the Chinese and Russian Revolutions greatly diminished population growth.
  • (C.) The human population was over a billion during the year zero, but steadily declined until 1600 due to plague, famine, the Crusades, and other wars; after 1600 and the Renaissance, population decline stabilized and reversed, with steady population growth until 1800, when the Industrial Revolution caused exponential growth that continued until 1950.
  • (D.) The human population increased very gradually until 1600, picked up steam and doubled by 1800 due to the Columbian Exchange, and then exploded exponentially until the middle of the 20th century due to the Industrial Revolution.

(4.) What is the difference between the trend of absolute population growth and the trend of the annual population growth rate?

  • (A.) Absolute population growth measures the amount of people on the planet at a given time; the total global human population will continue to increase for at least 100 years. The annual population growth rate measures how much the rate of growth increases or decreases in a given year; the population growth rate is declining, and every year the human population increases by a smaller percentage relative to the total.
  • (B.) Absolute population growth measures the amount of people on the planet at a given time; the total global human population will continue to increase for at least 100 years. The annual population growth rate measures how many additional people are added to the population in a given year, minus deaths; the amount of people added to the global population every year will continue to increase for decades.
  • (C.) Absolute population growth measures the increase of live births year over year; this number will continue to increase for decades, albeit at a decelerating rate. The annual population growth rate measures how much the rate of growth increases or decreases in a given year; the population growth rate is declining, and every year the human population increases by a smaller percentage relative to the total.
  • (D.) Absolute population growth measures the increase of live births year over year; this number will continue to increase for decades, albeit at a decelerating rate. The annual population growth rate measures how many additional people are added to the population in a given year, minus deaths; the amount of people added to the global population every year will continue to increase for decades.

(5.) Which of the following statements best characterizes the annual growth rate of the human population since 1950?

  • (A.) The annual growth rate of the human population has continued to grow every year since 1950, and will continue to accelerate in the future.
  • (B.) The annual growth rate of the human population reached its peak around 1970 at 2%, has remained steady since, and is projected to remain at 2% into the foreseeable future.
  • (C.) The annual growth rate of the human population increased until around 1970, where it peaked at 2%, and has slowly decelerated in the following decades, and is projected to continue decelerating in the coming decades.
  • (D.) The annual growth rate of the human population peaked at 2% around 1970, and has since collapsed; the annual growth rate has turned negative and will continue to decline according to projections.

(6.) Which statement best describes the present day demographic difference between rich and poor countries?

  • (A.) Rich countries possess a relatively even distribution of age groups across their total population; there are as many 70-year-olds as there are 10-year-olds. Poor countries have a much larger elderly population compared to their school- and military-age groups; there are many more people aged 45-75 than there are aged 5-35.
  • (B.) Rich countries possess a relatively even distribution of age groups across their total population; there are as many 70-year-olds as there are 10-year-olds. Poor countries have far more people in school- and military-age brackets compared to their elderly population; there are far more people aged 5-35 than there are aged 45-75.
  • (C.) Rich countries have far more elderly people than they do young people; there are many more people aged 45-75 then there are aged 5-35. Poor countries have far more people in school- and military-age brackets compared to their elderly population; there are far more people aged 5-35 than there are aged 45-75.
  • (D.) Rich countries have far more elderly people than they do young people; there are many more people aged 45-75 then there are aged 5-35. Poor countries have a much larger elderly population compared to their school- and military-age groups; there are many more people aged 45-75 than there are aged 5-35.

(7.) Why do poor countries, which can least afford high fertility rates, have such higher population growth rates than rich countries?

  • (A.) Poor countries on average have rapidly developing economies, and the benefits of globalization are allowing their citizens to afford more children while still remaining in poverty.
  • (B.) The death rate among adults in poor countries is much higher than that in rich countries, creating pressure on younger generations to produce more children to fill this demographic space.
  • (C.) In poor countries children have a much higher chance of dying before reaching reproductive age, but the average birth rate per woman is much higher than the death rate, producing a large net gain in population.
  • (D.) Poor countries have large shares of their population that adhere to fundamentalist religious practices that forbid contraception and encourage followers to have as many children as possible.

(8.) Which four demographic trends are most likely to occur between now and 2050?

  • (A.) The world’s absolute population will decline, the elderly share of the population will increase, mass migration will reconfigure the demographic makeup of rich and poor countries, and food shortages will afflict poor countries.
  • (B.) The world’s absolute population will remain steady, the rate of population growth will decrease, the percentage of people living in cities will decrease due to overcrowding, and the inequality between rich and poor countries will decline.
  • (C.) The world’s absolute population will increase, the rate of population growth will increase, mass migration from poor countries to rich countries will alter worldwide demographic make-ups, and young people will greatly outnumber old people.
  • (D.) The world’s absolute population will increase, the rate of population growth will decrease, the elderly share of the population will rise, and the percentage of people living in cities will increase.

(9.) Why does urbanization decrease the annual population growth rate in poor countries?

  • (A.) The pollution, crime, and lack of access to food and clean water in urban slums greatly increases the death rate compared to rural lifestyles, dampening overall population growth.
  • (B.) Rural families need additional children for labor, women have poor access to birth control, and children have poor access to education and economic opportunity.
  • (C.) Many cities in poor countries enforce municipal laws limiting the amount of children per family, so as to mitigate congestion and avoid resource depletion.
  • (D.) The economic opportunities provided by urbanization allow more women to work full-time, delaying marriage and child birth, and increasingly the time intervals between births.

(10.) Professor Joel Cohen is most likely to agree with which of the following statements:

  • (A.) Overpopulation is a misleading term; we should be doing all we can to increase human welfare, no matter what the population size, and should focus on educating children in poor countries, bolstering early childhood nutrition, building up urban infrastructure, and pursuing social, economic, and environmental justice goals to reduce inequality.
  • (B.) Overpopulation is one of the biggest threats we face in the 21st century, and world governments should cooperate to lower the average global birthrate.
  • (C.) The key to alleviating poverty in poor countries, thus lowering the birthrate, is to allow much more immigration into rich countries, where immigrants will earn higher wages and thus have fewer children. Resources in poor countries will also be spread less thinly, allowing greater opportunity for those remaining.
  • (D.) Demographic challenges, such as poverty, mega-slums, and aging populations, are best met using a single approach, such as increasing production of food, goods, and services to meet the needs of growing populations, or focusing solely on birth control to tamp down unsustainable population growth.

Answer Key: (1.) B, (2.) A, (3.) D, (4.) A, (5.) C, (6.) B, (7.) C, (8.) D, (9.) B, (10.) A

Reading Quiz

This reading quiz is based on the following readings:

Course Pack: Joel E. Cohen, How Many People Can the Earth Support? W. W. Norton, New York. (1995) (pp. 25–31; pp. 97-105; pp. 356–364)

Course Pack: Massimo, Livi-Bacci, A Concise History of World Population: An Introduction to Population Processes. (3rd rev. ed. Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge MA and Oxford UK. 2001) (Section 5.4, pp. 147–154)

(1.) Which of the following statements best describes the four evolutions in population growth?

  • (A.) Humans learned how to farm and cultivate livestock around 10,000 years ago, expanded the scope of agriculture to an increasingly mechanized and global scale around 250 years ago, developed an awareness of public health practices 50 years ago, and began reducing the birthrate 30 years ago.
  • (B.) Following the end of the Ice Age 100,000 years ago the ground thawed, allowing humans to develop local agriculture; around 10,000 years ago human communities densified into cities, boosting productivity; 200 years ago the Industrial Revolution created exponential economic growth; 50 years ago the end of WWII led to previously unknown prosperity and fertility.
  • (C.) Humans learned how to farm and cultivate livestock around 10,000 years ago; the accompanying population growth allowed the formation of the Roman Empire, which spread urban planning and agriculture to primitive societies, peaking around 2,000 years ago; around 400 years ago the Renaissance reintroduced ideas about public health, human rights, and political stability that led to a leap in demographic flourishing; the massive destruction of human life and natural resources during WWII began a decline in population growth that has yet to reverse.
  • (D.) Following the end of the Ice Age around 100,000 years ago, human populations boomed as thawing ground allowed for the development of agriculture; around 80,000 years ago, an unknown calamity reduced the human population to around 10,000 people; around 10,000 years ago the global human population had built back up enough to allow for the invention of cities, greatly increasing productivity; the conversion of oil to energy invented around 200 years ago created exponential economic growth.

(2.) Which of the following statements best explains why elderly people are becoming a larger percentage of the population?

  • (A.) The large-scale death wrought by WWII created an artificially low percentage of elderly people in much of the world for generations, but now the Baby Boomers have reached retirement age, creating the first full elderly population share in over 50 years.
  • (B.) Declines in fertility rates produce fewer young people, automatically increasing the elderly share of population, while medical advances ensure that existing people live longer.
  • (C.) While women still typically live longer than men, the gap between female and male elderly life expectancy has dropped dramatically in the last 50 years as a result of changing labor practices and medical advances, swelling the pool of people living to 80 and above.
  • (D.) The population explosions in much of the developing world over the past 50 years have created the largest aging groups the world has ever seen, skewing the overall world age demographic toward elderly cohorts.

(3.) Which of the following statements best describes the potential future of human population growth?

  • (A.) Human population growth must remain where it is today, at 1.6% a year, to provide steady population growth that supports the global economy, without leading to overcrowding for several hundred years.
  • (B.) Human population growth must reverse into a negative 1% drop every year in the near future if we are to avoid an unsupportable 100- or 1000-fold increase in the global population.
  • (C.) Human population growth must drop below 3% a year in the near future if we are to avoid an unsupportable 100- or 1000-fold increase in the global population.
  • (D.) Human population growth must drop below 1% a year in the near future if we are to avoid an unsupportable 100- or 1000-fold increase in the global population.

(4.) Easter Island provides a useful example in thinking about the question “How many people can the Earth support?” in all of the following ways EXCEPT:

  • (A.) The introduction of rats to Easter Island provided abundant food, until the rats started eating seeds and eggs from diminishing bird and palm tree resources, tipping the balance toward accelerating resource depletion.
  • (B.) Social cooperation and abundant resources allowed a rich culture to flourish, evidenced by the advanced technique required to carve and transport moai statues, but said culture collapsed when food and material resources dwindled.
  • (C.) Accelerating population growth created an unsustainable stress on finite island resources, leading to social strife, famine, and eventually depopulation.
  • (D.) The population of Easter Island peaked between 6,000 and 10,000 people before European explorers discovered the society; the introduction of smallpox via slavery accelerated the island’s depopulation.

(5.) Which of the following statements would the author of “The Conditions and Prospects for Fertility Decline and Demographic Policy” most likely agree with?

  • (A.) Fertility decline results from the overall societal development of a given country; as wages rise, cultures secularize, and infrastructure improves, the overall increase in well-being is sufficient to reduce fertility.
  • (B.) Fertility decline results from the desired fertility of the parents, and can be affected using the tools of contraceptive and family planning, but not caused by them.
  • (C.) Fertility decline results from the availability of contraceptives and family planning services; economic development without family planning does nothing to lower the fertility rate.
  • (D.) Fertility decline results from the direct coercive efforts of a given country’s government; child cap policies, like that enforced in China, reduce the “supply” of new children, creating a cultural shift toward less desired fertility.

Answer Key: (1.) A, (2.) B, (3.) D, (4.) C, (5.) B