Population, Urbanization, and the Environment



Sociology and demography are two distinct fields of study, but their interests overlap. Sociologists look at the data, statistics, and information to find explanations for and effects of changing demographics. One of the most significant social and demographic changes over the last 250 years is urbanization. The massive increase in urban populations has led many sociologists to examine the effects of city life on both people and the environment. They study the migration of social groups into and out of cities and social impacts of increasing urbanization, urban sprawl, and gentrification. Migration and urbanization can both result in increased diversity, including racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity. Some theorists emphasize the way increased contact between different groups produces more open-minded views, while others analyze the ways that increased diversity leads some groups to feel threatened. Researchers also study the impact larger populations have on the environment and how societies respond to the threat of insufficient resources.

At A Glance

  • Demography is the study of human population; it considers fertility, mortality, migration, population growth, and population composition.
  • The steadily increasing world population places pressure on societies and the environment, sparking debates about how to address overpopulation and overuse of resources.
  • Changing demographics are connected to social change and social problems.
  • Urbanization is the process in which growing numbers of people move from rural to urban areas.
  • Effects related to urbanization include increased urban density, sprawl, and gentrification.
  • Suburbanization is a post–World War II phenomenon that represents a newer form of income and racial segregation.
  • Sociologists use the term environment to encompass aspects of both the natural and human-made environment.
  • Sociologists analyze how environmental problems are connected to social behavior and social structure and consider issues including environmental racism and sustainable development.