Why Focus on Global Population Growth When Americans Are the Big Consumers?

Our members and supporters often take the time to send us their thoughts and questions about population issues. As Population Connection’s Director of Communications, I’ve answered countless numbers of these inquiries over the years, and realized that many of them come up frequently. In this monthly feature I’ll address our FAQs in detail to hopefully answer some of your own questions about population issues.

“Why does Population Connection focus on global population growth, which is occurring almost exclusively in the less developed countries, rather than on population growth in the United States where we consume so much more per capita?”

Consumption by the wealthy plays a huge role in the environmental problems we face today, especially at the global level. Poor people tend to degrade the environments where they live out of necessity (cutting down forests for firewood, lumber, and agricultural land; fishing until stocks expire; destroying wildlife habitats for their own use, etc.). Rich people, through their conspicuous consumption, degrade all environments everywhere with their carbon emissions and purchasing of products made worldwide.

Having acknowledged that, this is the reason we don’t focus on U.S. population growth:

Since the 1970s, the United States fertility rate has been at or below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. The latest data (from 2014) show that women are currently only having 1.86 children in this country. Of course there are plenty of families who have more than two children, dragging the average up from those who have none or one.

© Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com -  American Family Sitting In Garden

© Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com – American Family Sitting In Garden

Advocating for a further reduction in the United States fertility rate (although it would be an outcome we would welcome) doesn’t really make sense when it is already so low.

Advocating for a reduction in unintended pregnancies (45% of all pregnancies in the U.S.), however, makes sense for health, economic, and demographic purposes. There are an estimated 1.5 million unintended births in the U.S. each year (37% of all births), which account for half the net population growth we experience annually.

Population Connection works with our grassroots and on Capitol Hill to encourage efforts that will reduce unplanned pregnancies and births, lobbying to maintain Title X, the family planning program for low-income American women; to offer comprehensive, medically-accurate sex education in schools, as opposed to ineffective abstinence-only sex education; to ensure that pharmacists fill birth control prescriptions; to make the sale of emergency contraception available without age restrictions; and to keep abortion safe, legal, and accessible.

Small families are already the norm in the United States and have been for two generations. If we moved toward providing excellent sex education to all public school students, and made universal affordable access to birth control and safe and legal abortion a national priority, we would see our rate of unintended pregnancy and birth plummet.

Americans don’t need to be convinced to have fewer children—our politicians need to enable them to do so through increased funding for family planning and progressive policies for all aspects of sexual and reproductive health.

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Since 1968, Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth or ZPG) has been America's voice for population stabilization—we are the largest grassroots population organization in the United States!

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