Negative Population Growth: Definition, Effects & Countries

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  • 0:01 Population Growth
  • 1:26 Populations
  • 2:04 Limiting Factor
  • 2:40 Zero & Negative Growth
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ebony Potts

Ebony has taught middle and high school physical science, life science & biology. She's also been an assistant principal and has a doctorate in educational administration.

Is it possible for any one population to stop growing? In this lesson, you will learn the answer to that question. You will also learn whether or not zero population growth is beneficial.

Population Growth

Yes! You are playing ''Oh deer!'' in science class today. You and your classmates will get to pretend to either be deer or one of the deer's needs, such as food, water or shelter. In each round, you will divide into two lines facing away from one another on opposite sides of the gym. When Mr. Johnson yells ''Oh deer!'', you will turn around with one of the symbols indicating your choice. Each deer will quickly try to match him or herself with another classmate pretending to be a need.

During each round, some classmates will not find a match and ''die'' and be out. Mr. Johnson will carefully count how many deer had their needs met, and how many died in each round; any deer that does not have its needs met will sit out until the last deer dies off.

After ten rounds, the class graphs what happened to the deer population during the course of the game. As the class completes the graph, you notice that it levels out for about four rounds straight. Mr. Johnson says that means zero population growth. Each round stands for one year of the representative deer population. In those years where the graph is flat, the population had zero growth, and its numbers stayed the same. Mr. Johnson asks if the class thinks zero population growth is beneficial to the deer. Could it have a negative effect on the deer? What if the same thing happened to humans?


A population is any group of organisms of the same species that's living in and depending on a specific area for all of its needs. Did you know that in the 1800s, the average American family had five members, but by the 1900s, the average family in the U.S. had only two members? Did you also know that in China, the government actually has an official policy that encourages families to only have one child? Both of these facts are examples of limits that were placed on a population. But, why would humans want to restrict their population growth? Why isn't it good for a population to grow uncontrollably?

Limiting Factor

No population of organisms can grow uncontrollably, even humans. All populations have what are called limiting factors. Limiting factors are anything that places restrictions on how large a population can grow. What do you think can restrict human population growth? Could it be the cost of food? What about the cost of obtaining energy? Humans have to spend money on their needs and use a lot of resources, like coal and water. These are all costs. These costs in turn often act as limiting factors.

Zero & Negative Growth

As worldwide populations continue to grow, many environmentalist are calling for governments to encourage zero or even negative population growth. Zero population growth is very similar to what happened with the deer in our earlier example. When zero population is reached, the number of organisms that die in a time frame is equal to the amount of organisms that are born in that same time frame. Negative population growth means that there are more individuals leaving the population than joining the population.

Why do some people want governments to encourage negative population growth? The answer is resources. The more people there are, the more resources that are required to support those people: more housing, more food, more natural resources, and so on.

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