Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, educational, assessment and research purposes.


Course reviews will be shown here


This survey course introduces students to the important and basic material on human fertility, population growth, the demographic transition and population policy. Topics include: the human and environmental dimensions of population pressure, demographic history, economic and cultural causes of demographic change, environmental carrying capacity and sustainability. Political, religious and ethical issues surrounding fertility are also addressed. The lectures and readings attempt to balance theoretical and demographic scale analyzes with studies of individual humans and communities. The perspective is global with both developed and developing countries included.

Over 25 hours of lecture videos

24 lectures

Reading assignments

Course books


  • Barrionuevo, Alexei. "Amid Abuse in Brazil, Abortion Debate Flares." The New York Times, 27 March 2009.
  • Belanger, Daniele and Andrea Flynn. "The Persistence of Induced Abortion in Cuba." Studies in Family Planning, no. 40 (2009), pp. 13-26.
  • Belanger, Daniele. "Son Preference in a Rural Village in North Vietnam." Studies in Family Planning, 33 (2002), pp. 324-332.
  • Berelson, Bernard and Ronald Freedman. "A Study in Fertility Control." Scientific American, 21, pp. 29-37.
  • Bermingham, John. "Poor Countries Have Many Problems: Economic Development Is not an Easy Job." The Tanzania Times (March 1997), pp. 5-14.
  • Bledsoe, Caroline, Fatoumatta Banja and Allan Hill. "Reproductive Mishaps and Western Contraception: An African Challenge to Fertility Theory." Population and Development Review, 24, pp. 15-18, 20 and 33-45.
  • Bloom, David and David Canning. "How Demographic Change Can Bolster Economic Performance in Developing Countries." World Economics, Vol. 4, no. 4 (2003), pp. 1-13.
  • Bryant, John. "Theories of Fertility Decline and Evidence from Development Indicators." Population and Development Review, no. 33 (2007), pp. 101-104 and 122-124.
  • Caldwell, John, Pat Caldwell and Peter McDonald. "Policy Responses to Low Fertility and Its Consequences: A Global Survey." Journal of Population Research, 19 (2002), pp. 1-20.
  • Caldwell, Pat and John Caldwell. "High Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa." Scientific American (May 1990), pp. 118-125.
  • Caldwell, Pat, John Caldwell and I.O. Orubuloye. "The Destabilization of the Traditional Yoruba Sexual System."Population and Development Review, 17, pp. 231-238.
  • Coale, Ansley and Susan Watkins. The Decline of Fertility in Europe: The Revised Proceedings of a Conference on the Princeton European Fertility Project, pp. 38 and 420-449.
  • Cohen, Susan A. "Delayed Marriage and Abstinence-until-Marriage: On a Collision Course." The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, Vol. 7, no. 2 (June 2004).
  • Daley, Suzanne. "Screening Girls for Abstinence in South Africa." The New York Times, 17 August 1999.
  • De Waal, Frans. "Bonobo Sex and Society." Scientific American (March 1995), pp. 82-88.
  • Deutsch, Claudia. "A Not-So-Simple Plan to Keep African Girls in School." The New York Times, 12 November 2007.
  • Diamond, Jared. "Sex and the Female Agenda." Discover (September 1993), pp. 86-93.
  • Doolittle, Amity. "The Unseen, Unheard and Misunderstood: What Can We Learn from the Social History of Property Relations?" Tropical Resources: The Bulletin of the Yale Tropical Resources Institute, no. 21 (Spring 2002), pp. 4-5.
  • Dreifus, Claudia. "On the Ground and in the Water: Tracing a Giant Wave's Path." The New York Times, 25 December 2007.
  • Family Portrait: A Clan Keeps on Growing. National Geographic (March 2001).
  • Geertz, Clifford. "Book Review: A Society without Fathers or Husbands. The Na of China." The New York Review of Books, Vol. 48, no. 16, 18 October 2001.
  • Gladwell, Malcolm. "Dr. Rock's Error." The New Yorker, 13 March 2000, pp. 52-63.
  • Haberman, Clyde. "Let Others Hit the Panic Button; Caviar's Served." The New York Times, 6 January 2006.
  • Hardin, Garrett. "The Tragedy of the Commons." Science, Vol. 162, no. 3859, 13 December 1968, pp. 1243-1248.
  • Henshaw, Stanley. "Review of 'The Human Drama of Abortion.'" Studies in Family Planning, Vol. 38, no. 2 (2007), pp. 141-142.
  • Hertsgaard, Mark. "Our Real China Problem." The Atlantic Monthly (November 1997), pp. 1-17.
  • Higgins, Matthew and Jeffrey Williamson. "Age Structure Dynamics in Asia and Dependence on Foreign Capital."Population and Development Review, no. 23 (June 1997), pp. 261-293.
  • Hitt, Jack. "El Salvador: Pro-Life Nation." The New York Times Magazine, 9 April 2006.
  • Jehl, Douglas. "Arab Honor's Price: A Woman's Blood." The New York Times, 20 June 1999.
  • LaFraniere, Sharon. "Another School Barrier for African Girls: No Toilet." The New York Times, 23 December 2005.
  • Langer, William. "Checks on Population Growth: 1750-1850." Scientific American (February 1972), pp. 92-99.
  • Langer, William. "Europe's Initial Population Explosion." Harvard Today (Spring 1964), pp. 2-10.
  • Lee, James and Wang Feng. "Malthusian Models and Chinese Realities: China's Demographic System 1700-2000."Population and Development Review, 25 (1999), pp. 33-65.
  • Lloyd, Cynthia. "Investing in the Next Generation: The Implications of High Fertility at the Level of the Family." In R. Cassen, ed. Population and Development: Old Debates, New Conclusions. Washington, D.C.: Overseas Development Council, 1994, pp. 181-202.
  • Nie, Yilin and Robert Wyman. "The One-Child Policy in Shanghai: Acceptance and Internalization." Population and Development Review, 31 (2005), pp. 313-336.
  • Onishi, Norimitsu. "Ah, The Tonic of Ginseng! Especially a $65,000 Sprig!" The New York Times, 23 August 2007.
  • Panayotou, Theodore. " The Population, Environment, and Development Nexus." In R. Cassen, ed. Population and Development: Old Debates, New Conclusions. Washington, D.C.: Overseas Development Council, 1994, pp. 149-152.
  • Perlez, Jane. "Forests in Southeast Asia Fall to Prosperity's Ax." The New York Times, 29 April 2006.
  • Perry, Dana Heinz. "A Wrongful Birth." The New York Times Magazine, 2 April 2006.
  • Philips, James F., Sajeda Amin and Gholam M. Kamal. "The Determinants of Reproductive Change in Bangladesh: Success in a Challenging Environment." World Bank Publications (June 1994), pp. 1-6 and 131-151.
  • Repetto, Robert. "Second India Revisited: Population Poverty and Environmental Stress over Two Decades." World Resources Institute (June 1994), pp. 11-20.
  • Robey, Bryant, Shea O. Rutstein and Leo Morris. "The Fertility Decline in Developing Countries." Scientific American(December 1993), pp. 60-67.
  • Rogers, Vaughan, Rao Swalehe and Sood Svenkerud. "Effects of an Entertainment-Education Radio Soap Opera of Family Planning Behavior in Tanzania." Studies in Family Planning, no. 30 (1999), pp. 193-211.
  • Rosenbaum, Janet. "Reborn a Virgin: Adolescents Retracting of Virginity Pledges and Sexual Histories." American Journal of Public Health, no. 96 (2006), pp. 1098-1103.
  • Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. "Death without Weeping." Natural History (October 1989), pp. 8-16.
  • Sciolino, Elaine. "Radicalism: Is the Devil in the Demographics?" The New York Times, 9 December 2001.
  • Sengupta, Somini. "In Bombay, Public Indignity Is Poverty's Partner." The New York Times, 10 February 2002.
  • Shorto, Russell. "The War on Contraception." The New York Times Magazine, 7 May 2006.
  • Teitelbaum, Michael. "The Media Marketplace for Garbled Demography." Population and Development Review, 30 (2004), pp. 317-326.
  • The Associated Press. "Agency Approves a Birth-Control Pill Halting Periods Indefinitely." The New York Times, 23 May 2007.
  • Trenholm, Christopher, Barbara Devaney, Ken Fortson, Lisa Quay, Justin Wheeler, and Melissa Clark. Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs, Final Report. Washington D.C.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., 2007.
  • Tropper, Jonathan. "Goodbye Too Soon." The New York Times Magazine, 6 March 2005.
  • U.S. Supreme Court: Roe v. Wade, 1973, pp. 16-26.
  • Van de Walle, Etienne. "Fertility Transition, Conscious Choice and Numeracy." Demography, 29, pp. 490-496.
  • Wade, Nicolas. "Books on Science: Dr. Tatiana, a Dr. Ruth with Advice for Other Species." The New York Times, 5 November 2002.
  • Weaver, May Anne. "Gandhi's Daughters." The New Yorker, 10 January 2000.
  • Wolch, Mary Jean. "Open Letter from a Catholic Birth Mother." Conscience, 17, no. 3 (1996), pp. 25-28.
  • Wyman, Robert. "The Projection Problem." Population and Environment, Vol. 24, no. 4 (2003), pp. 329-337.
  • Zezima, Katie. "Spike in School's Pregnancies Leads to Report that Some Resulted from Girls' Pact." The New York Times, 20 June 2008.


Robert Wyman is Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale. Educated at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, his research has been in neuro-genetics: how genes build the brain. Recent articles in that field have appeared in Journal of Cell Science, Journal of Neuroscience, and Glia. Since Yale produces so many political and societal leaders, Professor Wyman believes students should be educated in the major world issues. Population is probably the most important of these issues as it is a major driver of both human and environmental misery. Publications in this field have appeared in Population and Development Review and Population and Environment.


Creative Commons License
Global Problems of Population Growth by Robert Wyman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

Course content

  • Lecture 1 - Evolution of Sex and Reproductive Strategies

  • Lecture 2 - Sex and Violence Among the Apes

  • Lecture 3 - From Ape to Human

  • Lecture 4 - When Humans Were Scarce

  • Lecture 5 - Why Is Africa Different?

  • Lecture 6 - Malthusian Times

  • Lecture 7 - Demographic Transition in Europe; Mortality Decline

  • Lecture 8 - Demographic Transition in Europe; Fertility Decline

  • Lecture 9 - Demographic Transition in Europe

  • Lecture 10 - Quantitative Aspects

  • Lecture 11 - Low Fertility in Developed Countries (Guest Lecture by Michael Teitelbaum)

  • Lecture 12 - Human and Environmental Impacts

  • Lecture 13 - Fertility Attitudes and Practices

  • Lecture 14 - Demographic Transition in Developing Countries

  • Lecture 15 - Female Disadvantage

  • Lecture 16 - Population in Traditional China

  • Lecture 17 - Population in Modern China

  • Lecture 18 - Economic Impact of Population Growth

  • Lecture 19 - Economic Motivations for Fertility

  • Lecture 20 - Teen Sexuality and Teen Pregnancy

  • Lecture 21 - Global Demography of Abortion

  • Lecture 22 - Media & the Fertility Transition in Developing Countries(by William Ryerson)

  • Lecture 23 - Biology and History of Abortion

  • Lecture 24 - Population and the Environment

Interested? Enroll to this course right now.

There is more to learn