Crash Course Thomas Malthus An Essay

An Introduction to Zero Population Growth

Zero population growth is a rare and special case of population growth. However, it is one that you should understand. As the name implies, there is no growth in population, and this is because the birth rate of a country plus its net immigration rate is equal to its death rate. The implication of this is that the amount of people being born in a particular country plus the net immigration into that country is equal to the number of people who are dying in that country.

In order to break it down for you, net immigration takes into account the number of people who immigrate and emigrate from that country and is the number of people who emigrate subtracted from the number of people who immigrate. Therefore, the net population growth is zero, because, for every person who dies or emigrates, someone is born or immigrates to replace that person in whatever time frame is chosen to measure these statistics.

In this article, we will further explore zero population growth, discuss why it is important to understand, and its examine implications. We will also discuss how it relates to the AP Human Geography exam.

What is Zero Population Growth and what are its Implications?

As we mentioned above, zero population implies that the birth rate of a country plus its net immigration rate over a period (usually a year) is equivalent to its death rate, resulting in no growth in population. Although it is hard to achieve, it can refer to a state of a constant population where the population does, in fact, grow or decline, but by a negligible margin. When looking at it regarding the fertility rate, which is the average number of children born per woman, zero population growth refers to matching the replacement fertility rate, which is 2.1 children per woman. Therefore, the population will be continuously replaced when people die or emigrate, and there will be no population growth or decline.

There are plenty of implications, both positive and adverse, of having zero population growth in the world. On the positive side, the state of having a constant population in a particular country can be appealing. If you were to lead a country, and you are able to maintain a certain amount of people within your borders, you can plan for that amount with more ease without having to worry about unexpected population growth or decline.

Therefore, if you can properly plan for a particular population, you can raise the standard of living for all by appropriately allocating resources which, in other conditions, would either be strained or unfairly distributed. Proponents of this say that the sooner the earth reaches this state, the better due to the increased ease of establishing higher standards of living for all inhabitants of that country.

We can expand this model to a global scale as well. If the entire earth experiences zero population growth, all people of the planet can also begin to experience a higher standard of living. Naturally, when discussing zero population growth on a global scale, immigration is not accounted for because all migration occurs within the frame of reference. We will assume that as of the time that you are reading this, aliens have not begun to immigrate to our planet or that there has been an easy and convenient way to emigrate to planet Pandora. So, with all of that out of the way, if the world can maintain this level of growth, supranational organizations such as the United Nations or the European Union (assuming it stays around for much longer) can plan similarly to the central authority within a country.

Those who oppose zero population growth and say that it has negative ramifications assert that its implications are similar to those of population decline, specifically regarding social and economic consequences. These adverse effects are based mostly around the idea that, on the path to zero population growth, which can only be achieved through population decline for most of the world, there are not enough young people to support the aging population, increasing the dependency ratio and putting a higher burden on the central authority to provide services to the older population.

An example of this would be if the United States sought to achieve zero population growth, there would not be enough young people to pay the social security tax to provide social security services and pensions for the older population. Therefore, it would put a strain on the American government to try and come up with money to avert this crisis and be able to support the older population. So when you graduate college and get a job, each dollar you earn is increasingly significant for the older population.

Zero population growth has occurred in some parts of the world already, namely the former Soviet states such as Russia and Ukraine, and in some countries in Western Europe, such as Germany and Austria. Some of these have gone to experience population decline.

For the former Soviet states, this was a result of the planned economy during communism that led to extreme poverty in these areas. As a result, families were unable to support children and saw no point in having them at all due to the communist society.

In Western Europe, the opposite was the case. These countries were affluent and highly educated, with women studying and working at higher rates that postponed or negated pregnancies. They were less family oriented and more career oriented, therefore dropping the birth rates.

Zero Population Growth and the AP Human Geography Exam

On the official course description of the AP Human Geography Exam written by CollegeBoard, zero population growth is never explicitly mentioned. However, as you are probably aware, CollegeBoard likes to ask implicitly about these terms. Therefore, if you have to use the concept of zero population growth on the AP Human Geography Exam, it will most likely be masked by a typical population growth or decline type question.

On the AP Human Geography curriculum, population appears in several different areas, any of which are fair game for mentioning zero population growth. The first is the unit on population and migration. In this unit, it falls under the section where you are required to have knowledge that the geographic patterns and characteristics of human populations facilitate understanding of cultural, political, economic, and urban systems.

Within this section, it falls under the subsection of the analysis of population composition, where you use population pyramids to project population growth and decline and to predict markets for goods and services. In this context, you may be asked to use zero population growth to analyze the population pyramids. You should be able to identify the pyramid for the respective population trends. For example, population growth should show a wider base with a narrower top, zero population growth should show a relatively even distribution among the age cohorts, and population decline should show a wider top that narrows down to the younger cohorts.

In the same unit, zero population growth can also be found under the section relating to the growth and decline of population over time and space under two different learning objectives: explain contemporary and historical trends in population growth and decline and evaluate various national and international population policies.

Under the former objective, you would study information similar to that mentioned above about how the former Soviet States and some Western European states experienced this phenomenon, and why. For the latter, you can explain the motivations behind the one-child policy in China, which arose out of fear of overpopulation, and how its aim was to achieve zero population growth during this century.

In the multiple-choice section of the AP Human Geography exam, from what is available online, CollegeBoard doesn’t seem to mention zero population growth at all. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t be in future multiple choice sections and that it hasn’t done so in previous multiple choice sections that are not available to the general public.

Make sure you understand the concept of zero population growth as well as how and why it has manifested itself in certain parts of the world as well as national policies. These kinds of questions are fair game as they are explicitly outlined in the objectives of this course despite zero population growth not having been done so.

You won’t be asked a free-response question (FRQ) about zero population growth either, as part of the overall question or any parts of the question. However, there is a high likelihood of you being asked a question about population growth. If the situation calls for it, you can use zero population growth to support your answer or argument. Here is an example from the 2011 FRQ (Question 2):

In 1798 Thomas Robert Malthus published An Essay on the Principle of Population in which he argued that population growth will inevitably outpace food production, resulting in widespread famine.

A. Identify and explain TWO reasons why some geographers today believe Malthus’ theory can be used to predict future population issues.

B. Identify and explain TWO reasons why some geographers today believe Malthus’ theory cannot be used to predict future population issues.

You could incorporate zero population growth into your answer for part B of this question by saying that Malthus’ theory is no longer valid because zero population growth and even negative population growth (or population decline) has already occurred in some parts of the world. Malthus argues that population will always increase, and to say that population has decreased in parts of the world and can do so in others, with the ultimate goal being worldwide zero population growth, you can support these geographers who no longer believe in the Malthusian prediction.

Wrapping up Zero Population Growth

To summarize this article, zero population growth means that population within given borders is in equilibrium, implying that births, deaths, immigration, and emigration essentially cancel each other out. Proponents of policies favoring zero population growth argue that it would increase the standard of living in countries and across the world, while opponents point out that it could put heavy strain on youth workers. Examples have occurred in the former Soviet States and in Western Europe. It will most likely not be explicitly asked about on the AP Human Geography exam, however you can use this concept to support answers on the FRQ and as comparisons for population pyramids on the multiple choice section.

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  • Published on Nov 8, 2014
  • In which John Green teaches you about population. So, how many people can reasonably live on the Earth? Thomas Malthus got it totally wrong in the 19th century, but for some reason, he keeps coming up when we talk about population. In 1800, the human population of the Earth passed 1 billion, and Thomas Malthus posited that growth had hit its ceiling, and the population would level off and stop growing. He was totally right. Just kidding, he was totally wrong! There are like 7 billion people on the planet now! John will teach a little about how Malthus made his calculations, and explain how Malthus came up with the wrong answer. As is often the case, it has to do with making projections based on faulty assumptions. Man, people do that a lot.
    You can directly support Crash Course at www.patreon.com/crashcourse Subscribe for as little as $0 to keep up with everything we're doing. Free is nice, but if you can afford to pay a little every month, it really helps us to continue producing this content.
  • Published on Nov 8, 2014
  • In which John Green teaches you about population. So, how many people can reasonably live on the Earth? Thomas Malthus got it totally wrong in the 19th century, but for some reason, he keeps coming up when we talk about population. In 1800, the human population of the Earth passed 1 billion, and Thomas Malthus posited that growth had hit its ceiling, and the population would level off and stop growing. He was totally right. Just kidding, he was totally wrong! There are like 7 billion people on the planet now! John will teach a little about how Malthus made his calculations, and explain how Malthus came up with the wrong answer. As is often the case, it has to do with making projections based on faulty assumptions. Man, people do that a lot.
    You can directly support Crash Course at www.patreon.com/crashcourse Subscribe for as little as $0 to keep up with everything we're doing. Free is nice, but if you can afford to pay a little every month, it really helps us to continue producing this content.
  • Published on Nov 8, 2014
  • In which John Green teaches you about population. So, how many people can reasonably live on the Earth? Thomas Malthus got it totally wrong in the 19th century, but for some reason, he keeps coming up when we talk about population. In 1800, the human population of the Earth passed 1 billion, and Thomas Malthus posited that growth had hit its ceiling, and the population would level off and stop growing. He was totally right. Just kidding, he was totally wrong! There are like 7 billion people on the planet now! John will teach a little about how Malthus made his calculations, and explain how Malthus came up with the wrong answer. As is often the case, it has to do with making projections based on faulty assumptions. Man, people do that a lot.
    You can directly support Crash Course at www.patreon.com/crashcourse Subscribe for as little as $0 to keep up with everything we're doing. Free is nice, but if you can afford to pay a little every month, it really helps us to continue producing this content.
  • Published on Nov 8, 2014
  • In which John Green teaches you about population. So, how many people can reasonably live on the Earth? Thomas Malthus got it totally wrong in the 19th century, but for some reason, he keeps coming up when we talk about population. In 1800, the human population of the Earth passed 1 billion, and Thomas Malthus posited that growth had hit its ceiling, and the population would level off and stop growing. He was totally right. Just kidding, he was totally wrong! There are like 7 billion people on the planet now! John will teach a little about how Malthus made his calculations, and explain how Malthus came up with the wrong answer. As is often the case, it has to do with making projections based on faulty assumptions. Man, people do that a lot.
    You can directly support Crash Course at www.patreon.com/crashcourse Subscribe for as little as $0 to keep up with everything we're doing. Free is nice, but if you can afford to pay a little every month, it really helps us to continue producing this content.
  • Published on Nov 8, 2014
  • In which John Green teaches you about population. So, how many people can reasonably live on the Earth? Thomas Malthus got it totally wrong in the 19th century, but for some reason, he keeps coming up when we talk about population. In 1800, the human population of the Earth passed 1 billion, and Thomas Malthus posited that growth had hit its ceiling, and the population would level off and stop growing. He was totally right. Just kidding, he was totally wrong! There are like 7 billion people on the planet now! John will teach a little about how Malthus made his calculations, and explain how Malthus came up with the wrong answer. As is often the case, it has to do with making projections based on faulty assumptions. Man, people do that a lot.
    You can directly support Crash Course at www.patreon.com/crashcourse Subscribe for as little as $0 to keep up with everything we're doing. Free is nice, but if you can afford to pay a little every month, it really helps us to continue producing this content.
  • Published on Nov 8, 2014
  • In which John Green teaches you about population. So, how many people can reasonably live on the Earth? Thomas Malthus got it totally wrong in the 19th century, but for some reason, he keeps coming up when we talk about population. In 1800, the human population of the Earth passed 1 billion, and Thomas Malthus posited that growth had hit its ceiling, and the population would level off and stop growing. He was totally right. Just kidding, he was totally wrong! There are like 7 billion people on the planet now! John will teach a little about how Malthus made his calculations, and explain how Malthus came up with the wrong answer. As is often the case, it has to do with making projections based on faulty assumptions. Man, people do that a lot.
    You can directly support Crash Course at www.patreon.com/crashcourse Subscribe for as little as $0 to keep up with everything we're doing. Free is nice, but if you can afford to pay a little every month, it really helps us to continue producing this content.
  • Published on Nov 8, 2014
  • In which John Green teaches you about population. So, how many people can reasonably live on the Earth? Thomas Malthus got it totally wrong in the 19th century, but for some reason, he keeps coming up when we talk about population. In 1800, the human population of the Earth passed 1 billion, and Thomas Malthus posited that growth had hit its ceiling, and the population would level off and stop growing. He was totally right. Just kidding, he was totally wrong! There are like 7 billion people on the planet now! John will teach a little about how Malthus made his calculations, and explain how Malthus came up with the wrong answer. As is often the case, it has to do with making projections based on faulty assumptions. Man, people do that a lot.
    You can directly support Crash Course at www.patreon.com/crashcourse Subscribe for as little as $0 to keep up with everything we're doing. Free is nice, but if you can afford to pay a little every month, it really helps us to continue producing this content.
  • Published on Nov 8, 2014
  • In which John Green teaches you about population. So, how many people can reasonably live on the Earth? Thomas Malthus got it totally wrong in the 19th century, but for some reason, he keeps coming up when we talk about population. In 1800, the human population of the Earth passed 1 billion, and Thomas Malthus posited that growth had hit its ceiling, and the population would level off and stop growing. He was totally right. Just kidding, he was totally wrong! There are like 7 billion people on the planet now! John will teach a little about how Malthus made his calculations, and explain how Malthus came up with the wrong answer. As is often the case, it has to do with making projections based on faulty assumptions. Man, people do that a lot.
    You can directly support Crash Course at www.patreon.com/crashcourse Subscribe for as little as $0 to keep up with everything we're doing. Free is nice, but if you can afford to pay a little every month, it really helps us to continue producing this content.

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