Poverty, Carrying Capacity, Population Growth & Sustainability

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  • 0:07 What Is Poverty?
  • 3:49 Poverty and Population Growth
  • 4:35 Carrying Capacity
  • 5:24 Global Sustainability
  • 6:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has taught many Biology and Environmental Science courses and has Master's degrees in Environmental Science and Education.

Worldwide poverty is a large issue. In this lesson, we will explore how poverty influences population growth rates and how these things relate to carrying capacity and global sustainability.

What Is Poverty?

Think about everything you buy or spend money on during an average day. How much money do you think you spend? $5, $10, $20, or much more? Across the world, there is a wide range of money spent by each person per day. People who live in regions where the amount of money spent per day is high, might be considered wealthy, while people who live in regions where the amount of money spent per day is low, might be considered poor.

Poverty is the term used to describe when a person is unable to meet their basic needs due mainly to economic constraints. The basic needs of a person are clean water, adequate food, shelter, health, and education. When a person does not have these basic needs due to economic constraints, they are considered to be living in poverty. Internationally, the poverty line is considered living on around $2 a day. Although this definition might seem shocking due to the low amount of money, it gets worse. There are people who are considered to live in extreme poverty and who survive on less than $1.25 a day. As of 2010, there were nearly 1.4 billion people worldwide that were classified as living in extreme poverty. This means that nearly one out of every five people on Earth is living in extreme poverty and not having their basic needs met.

Although the amount of money a person lives on each day is a major indicator of poverty, there are also many other characteristics of a nation in poverty, including birth rates, death rates, and age structure. Birth rate, which is the number of individuals born per 1,000 individuals per year, is high in poverty stricken nations. When looking strictly at the number of babies born per woman, the statistics are very different based on the economy of the country. On average, women in wealthier countries only produce two babies during their lifetime, while women in poorer countries produce around six babies during their life. In general, poor regions have less access to contraception and also may produce more offspring to help increase income for the family.

Having a high death rate, which is the number of individuals that die per 1,000 individuals per year, is another characteristic of a nation living in poverty. One important death rate statistic that is an indicator of poverty is the infant mortality rate, which is the percentage of infants that die before the age of one year. The wealthiest nations often have an infant mortality rate of less than 1%, while the poorest countries have an average infant mortality rate of around 10%. Poor regions often have high death rates due to limited access to medical care, poor sanitation, and increased prevalence of diseases.

The third characteristic of a poverty-stricken nation is the population's age structure, which is the distribution of the population based on age categories. Wealthy countries often have their population distributed relatively evenly over all age categories. Due to high birth rates and low survivorship, poor countries often have a skewed distribution, with a higher percentage of their overall population being in the lower age categories.

Poverty and Population Growth

Now that we know what poverty is, how do you think it relates to population growth? For the most part, poverty stricken countries have high population growth rates. Although the death rate is high in poor regions, the birth rate is even higher, which results in a constant increase in the human population. In addition, the population growth in regions of poverty is also increasing due to the age structure of the population. Poor countries have a high percentage of their population in lower age categories. This results in a large proportion of the population being at reproductive age and leads to an increase in overall birth rates, thus helping increase the overall population of the country.

Carrying Capacity

Due to the high population growth rates of poverty stricken countries, the carrying capacity of the human population is of concern. The carrying capacity is the maximum population size of a species that an ecosystem can support indefinitely. The concern is that regions of poverty with high population growth rates are going to lead to a rapid and uncontrolled growth in the overall human population. This could result in the carrying capacity being exceeded. If the carrying capacity is exceeded, the population will be too large and there will not be enough resources for all individuals to survive. As a result, individuals will die due to lack of resources until a healthy population is reached that can be sustained on the resources available.

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