02 - Overview - SOCI 121 Population Problems OVERVIEW OF...

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SOCI 121: Population Problems O VERVIEW OF P OPULATION S TUDIES Objectives: Define the scope and basic terminology of demography Discuss what is unique about the way demographers approach problems Explain why a demographic perspective is important and to whom Class Notes: What is Population? In the social sciences, a population is a collection of people living in a given geographic area at a particular time. How do Social Scientists Study Population? The scientific study of human populations is known as demography . o Demographers study the size, distribution, and composition of human populations, and the processes of fertility, mortality, and migration through which populations change. o Demography is a discipline, an “interdiscipline”, and a subdiscipline It is a discipline because it is a field with its own body of interrelated concepts, techniques, journals, departments, and professional associations. It is an interdisciplinary field because it draws its subject matter and methods from many disciplines, including sociology, economics, biology, geography, history, and the health sciences. It is also a subdiscipline within some of these same disciplines. In most universities, demography courses are taught within the sociology curriculum, perhaps because population phenomena have so long been linked to social processes. Demographers study population by examining its dynamics and its composition . o Populations are never static, they are dynamic , a synonym for changing They grow or decline through the interplay of three demographic processes: birth (fertility), death (mortality), and migration . Consider: A decline in mortality usually benefits the very young and the very old more than others in the population. Thus mortality decline leads to greater survival of children. o This greater survival of children eventually motivates people to think about limiting the number of children they are having – this leads to fertility decline. o A rapid decline in fertility can lead to populations with fewer working-age individuals than are necessary to fulfill basic functions in a society A decline in mortality is also associated with a growth in population. In rural areas, where most of the population lived for most of human history, the growth in the number of young 1
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SOCI 121: Population Problems people leads to an oversupply of young people looking for jobs, especially as population growth outstrips land availability. o This will encourage some people to migrate – to go elsewhere in search of economic opportunities. o Most rural migrants flock to cities in search of work. As cities are historically associated with lower levels of fertility than rural areas, urban migration becomes a major factor in bringing and keeping fertility levels down all over the world.
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