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Population Growth Rate Teaching Activities
Population growth rate (PGR) is the increase in a country’s population during a period of time, usually one year, expressed as a percentage of the population at the start of that period. It reflects the number of births and deaths during a period and the number of people migrating to and from a country. 
  • Population growth rates are much higher in most low- and middle-income countries than in most high-income countries.
  • Population growth rates have declined in low- and middle-income countries over the past few decades but remain high because birth rates have not fallen as rapidly as death rates.
  • There will be more than 1 billion more people in the world in 2015 than there were in 2000 (as population grows from about 6 billion to 7.1 billion), and six out of seven of these people will live in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Although the population growth rate for developing countries has been decreasing for several decades, the number of people added to the population each year has been increasing because the population base has become larger.
  • Countries that have a large proportion of their population in their childbearing years often experiencepopulation momentum. Even if couples have only enough children to replace themselves when they die, the population will continue to grow and will not stabilize until the younger group ages beyond their childbearing years.
  • Birth rates tend to fall when parents have access to family planning, health care, education and jobs.
  • Population growth can make it more difficult to raise standards of living in some countries and can put pressure on the environment.
  • Two of the most successful strategies for reducing fertility rates are providing greater access to primary health care and promoting education for girls and women.

Exploring the PGR Text

1. Read and study the text and the definition of population growth rate and answer the following questions.

  1. What does population growth rate measure?
  2. If you wanted to get an accurate picture of population growth trends in a country, would you look at the average annual growth rate for a single year, or for a period of years? Explain why.

2. Answer each of the following questions briefly, referring back to the text if necessary.

  1. Why have death rates and birth rates declined?
  2. What causes population momentum? What are its consequences?
  3. How might increasing urbanization affect environmental conditions in a country?
  4. To what extent does migration between your country and others, or from rural to urban areas within your country affect your country’s economic, environmental, or social situation?
  5. What sorts of services and support can a government provide to its citizens that will help slow the population growth rate? Explain why you think these strategies may help.
  6. What might be some reasons why women with a basic education tend to have fewer children?

3. Calculate the annual population growth rate for countries A, B, and C using data provided in the table below and this formula: *

Population increase
in a year

 

Population at the start of the year

 x

100

=

Annual population
growth rate (%)

  Population at the
start of the year
Population at the
end of the year
Population increase
during the year
Annual population
growth rate (%)
Country A 22,000,000 22,400,000    
Country B 8,500,000 8,800,000    
Country C 400,000,000 410,000,000    

* (Average annual population growth rates for a period of years provide a better picture than annual rates. For this reason, they are used in the Data Table. Calculating any growth rate for a period longer than a year requires more complicated mathematical formulas than the one used to calculate an annual rate.) 

4. Population growth rates are small numbers, but they have large effects on population. To see what this means, complete the following exercises.

  1. Assume the world population at the beginning of 2000 was about 6 billion. If the projected 2000 average annual population growth rate for the world was 1.1%, how many more people would be added to the world by 2001.
  2. If the 2000 world population grew at .2%, the same projected rate as the United Kingdom, how many more people would be added to the world by 2001.
  3. If the 2000 world population grew at 1.7%, the same projected rate as Kenya, how many more people would be added to the world by 2001.
  4. Use your answers to questions 3a,b, and c to make a general statement about the relationship between population growth rates and the change in the size of a population.

5. Use the calculations and data in the table below to calculate the birth rates, death rates, and population growth rates for three countries and fill in the missing information.

 Number of births
(%)

Population

x

100

=

Birth rate


Number of deaths (%)

Population

x

100

=

Death rate


 

Birth rate
(%)

Death rate
(%)

=

Population
growth rate (%)

 
Country

Births

Deaths

Population

Birth
rate

Death
rate

Population
growth rate

Country A

662,000

297,000

33,100,000

Country B

411,000

191,800

27,400,000

 

 

Country C

211,200

96,800

4,400,000

 

6. If a population growth rate is low, population is growing slowly. If it is high, population is growing rapidly. To understand what "slow" and "rapid" mean, it helps to look at how long it will take different countries growing at different rates to double their population.

  1. The number of years it takes a population to double can be estimated by dividing the number 70 by that population's growth rate. Calculate the doubling time of populations growing at the rates shown in the key to the map.
  2. Is three percent a rapid growth rate? Explain. Is two percent a rapid growth rate? Explain. Is one percent a rapid growth rate? Explain.
  3. Use the projected population data in column 2 of the Social Data Table for 1998–2015 to calculate the population doubling time for these countries: your country, Canada, Chile, Finland, India, Zambia.
  4. Assume that your country has an average annual population growth rate of 1.8%. It will take 39 years for your country’s population to double. What changes will your country need to make to deal with this growth in population? Consider such issues as housing, health care, food supplies, transportation, employment, education, and the environment. Do you think your country presently has the resources to handle this rate of population growth? Why or why not? 

7. What consequences might a declining population growth rate have on a country’s economy and environment?

Exploring the PGR Map


Average Annual Population Growth Rate (%), 1980–1998

1. According to the map key, what color represents countries with lower population growth rates? Where do these countries tend to be located?

2. What color represents countries with higher population growth rates? Where do these countries tend to be located?

3. Which continent has the largest number of countries with a high PGR? What assumptions might you make about living conditions there?

4. Name and locate on the map three countries with population growth rates of more than 3 percent, three with rates of 2 to 3 percent and three with rates of less than 1 percent. To what extent are these countries typical of other countries in their regions?

Exploring PGR Chart 1


Chart 1. Total World Population by Country Income Group 1980, 1998, 2015

1. Study Chart 1 which shows the world population size by country income group for 1980, 1998, and 2015. What is the total world population for each year? How much will total world population have increased from 1998 to 2015?

2. Use the data from the table below to complete the exercises that follow.

 

1998 (millions)

2015 (millions)

Low-income economies

3536

4436

Middle-income economies

1474

1748

High-income economies

886

928

Total world population

5897

7113

  1. Calculate the percentage of the world population that lived in low-, middle-, and high-income countries in 1998.
  2. Describe the general distribution of the world’s population among low-, middle-, and high-income countries.
  3. Calculate the percentage of the world’s population that is projected to live in low-, middle-, and high-income countries in 2015.
  4. Compare the percentages for each country income group and describe the change between 1998 and 2015.

3. Use the Social Data Table to identify the five most populous countries in 1998 along with their populations, their regions, and their income groups, and fill in the following table:

Country 1998 population Region (millions) Income group
       
       
       
       
       
  1. Which two countries had the largest populations?
  2. To which income group did these two countries belong?
  3. Which region had the most countries in the top five most populous nations?

4. Use the Social Data Table to fill in the population information for China and India in the following table. Next, calculate the percentage of the world’s population that is represented by China and India for 1998 and 2015 and add that information to the table. (Divide each country’s population by the world’s population and multiply the figure by 100.) Then answer the questions that follow.

 

Population
1998

% of world
population
1998

Average annual
population
growth rate
1998–2015

Population
2015

% of world
population
2015

China

 

 

.7

 

 

India

 

 

1.3

 

 

World

5,897,000,000

----

1.1

7,113,000,000

---

  1. Compare the population size of these two countries in 1998. How many times larger was China’s population than India’s? (Divide China’s population by India’s population.)
  2. Compare the population size of these two countries in 2015. How many times larger is China’s population expected to be than India’s?
  3. India has a smaller population base than China, yet the gap in their populations is expected to decrease significantly in the next few years. How can you account for this?
  4. Add the projected 2015 populations of the two countries. What percentage of the world’s population will they represent?
  5. Given the population size projections of these two countries, in what ways might they play important roles in the world economy? In your answer consider China and India’s potential as producers and consumers, and to what extent this potential depends on the development of their human capital and the use of their natural resources. 5. In 1998, four out of every five people in the world lived in low- and middle-income countries. As this percentage increases, what might be some of the impacts on the global economy? On the environment? On peace and security issues?

Exploring PGR Chart 2


Chart 2. Population Growth Rate by Country Income Group, 1980-2015

1. Study the information in Chart 2. What is happening to the average annual population growth rate in low- and middle-income countries over time?

2. According to Chart 1, what is happening to the population size in low- and middle- income countries over time?

3. How do you explain these two trends?

4. The following table shows population data for three developing countries. Complete the table by calculating the annual population change for each country (divide the percentage by 100 to get a decimal, then multiply population size by the decimal figure), then answer the questions that follow.

Country

Population
size

Average
annual PGR %

Annual
population change

Ethiopia
   1980
38,000,000
2.7
 
   1998
61,000,000
2.1
 
Pakistan
   1980
83,000,000
3.0
 
   1998
132,000,000
2.3
 
Ukraine
   1980
50,000,000
.2
 
   1998
50,000,000
–.8
 
  1. Look at the numbers for Pakistan. Although the average annual population growth rate decreased from 1980 to 1998, the annual population increase was greater in 1998. Why?
  2. What are the population trends in Ethiopia?
  3. What are the population trends in Ukraine? What would have been its total population in 1999? What might be some reasons for these trends?

5. What effect might a declining population growth rate have on a country’s economy and environment?

6. Why might a country not want to slow its population growth?

Exploring PGR Charts 3.1 & 3.2


Charts 3.1 & 3.2. Composition of Population in Low- and High-income Economies, 1998

1. Study the information in Chart 3.1 for low- and high-income economies in 2000. Then, answer the following questions about the population trends shown. 

  1. In low-income countries, which age range(s) contained the largest percentage of the population? the lowest?
  2. In high-income countries, which age range(s) contained the largest percentage of the population? the lowest?
  3. In a brief statement, compare the age composition of the populations for low- and high-income countries for 2000.
  4. Considering your answer to question 1c, what type of social programs might be important to meet the future needs of the largest age groups of each country income group?

2. Study the information in Chart 3.2 for low- and high-income economies in 2030. Then, answer the following questions about the population trends shown. 

  1. In low-income countries, which age range(s) contained the largest percentage of the projected population? the lowest?
  2. In high-income countries, which age range(s) contained the largest percentage of the projected population? the lowest?
  3. Compare the age composition of the populations for low- and high-income countries shown in Chart 3.2 with those shown in Chart 3.1.
  4. Compare the gender composition for low- and high-income countries shown in Chart 3.2. with those shown in Chart 3.1.

3. Read the definition of population momentum in the glossary. Using Charts 3.1 and 3.2as a reference, in which economic groups and years do you think this phenomenon exists? Why?

4. Look at the shapes of the charts in Charts 3.1 and 3.2. What would a stabilized population look like? Explain.

5. What impact might population momentum have on the care of small children in a country where a large proportion of the childcare duties are performed by daycare centers? What about a population where elderly relatives provide childcare? Who are the caretakers of small children in your country? What effect might population momentum have on these arrangements?

6. What impact might an aging population have on the care of elderly people in a country where a large proportion of these people live in nursing homes or elderly housing? How are elderly people cared for in your country? What impact might an aging population have on this care?

7. Match each of the following descriptions with the country below that illustrates the trend described.

  1. The death rate is high, the birth rate is high, and there are a large number of children in the population.
  2. There has been a sustained decline in the birth rate, but the proportion of the elderly population has not yet become large.
  3. The birth rate has been low for a long period, and the elderly proportion of the population is increasing.

Exploring the Data Tables

1. Read the definition of growth rates. Use the Social Data Table to find the countries that have negative average annual population growth rates projected for the years 1998–2015.  

  1. How many countries have negative projected population growth rates? In which region(s) are these countries located?
  2. How will a negative population growth rate affect the actual numbers of people in these countries?
  3. What might be some benefits to a decrease in population?
  4. What are some potential problems if a country’s population is decreasing or growing too slowly to replace the number of people who die? 

2. Make a copy of the blank Comparative Data Table and label the first column Countries and the second column Population growth rate, 1980–98. (Note. The Work On Line version tables are already labeled.) Then using the text and the Data Tables, fill in the chart according to the following instructions:

  1. In the column at the left of the table, write the following countries and their regions: Brazil (South America), Ghana (Sub-Saharan Africa), Philippines (Asia, South and East, and the Pacific), Egypt (Middle East and North Africa), Canada (North and Central American and the Caribbean), Russian Federation (Europe and Central Asia).
  2. Read the definition of population growth rate.
  3. Use the Social Data Table to find the average annual population growth rate for each country during 1980–98. Rank the countries with "1" equaling the lowest population growth rate and "6" the highest. Write the appropriate ranking number in parentheses after the data in column 2. Make a general statement comparing the population growth rates in these six countries.
  4. Find each of the six countries in the world and regional map gallery. Compare the color of each country with those of its neighbors. To what extent is each country typical of conditions in its area and region? Make a general statement comparing the population growth rates in the six regions. 

3. Make a copy of the blank Comparative Data Table and label the first column Countries, the second column Population growth rate, 1980–98, the third column, Life expectancy at birth, 1998, the fourth column GNP per capita, 1998 and the fifth Access to safe water, 1990–96. (Note. The Work On Line version tables are already labeled.) Then using the text and the Basic Data Table, fill in the chart according to the following instructions. 

  1. Choose a low-income country in Sub-Saharan Africa and one in Asia (South and East) and the Pacific and write their names in the first column.
  2. Choose a middle-income country in each of the following regions and add them to the first column: South America, Europe and Central Asia, and Middle East and North Africa.
  3. Choose a high-income country in North and Central America and the Caribbean, one in Europe and Central Asia, and one in Asia (South and East) and the Pacific and add them to the first column.
  4. Label each country in your data table with an L, M, or H to show which income group it belongs to: low, middle, or high.
  5. Read the definitions of population growth rate, life expectancy at birth, GNP per capita, and access to safe water. Go to the Basic Data Table, and for each of your countries find the 1980–98 population growth rate, 1998 life expectancy at birth, 1998 GNP per capita, and the 1990–96 percentage of population with access to safe water, and write this information in the appropriate columns. If data for one of the indicators are not available, select another country from the same income group and region.
  6. Rank the countries, with "1" equaling the lowest population growth rate and "8" the highest. Write the appropriate ranking number in parentheses after the data in column 2.
  7. Study your chart and answer the following questions:
    • In the countries with population growth rates of more than 3 percent, are the other indicators high or low?
    • In the countries with population growth rates of 2 to 3 percent, are the other indicators higher or lower than in the countries with population growth rates of more than 3 percent?
    • In the countries with population growth rates of less than 1 percent, are the other indicators higher or lower than in the other countries?
    • Does population growth rate follow the same trend as the other development indicators in your chart? Explain.

Exploring PGR Photo 1


Grandmother and Children, USA

1. Look at the photograph. Describe what you see.

2. Would this be a common scene in your country? Why or why not?

3. In which country was this photograph taken?

4. Find the country in the world and regional map gallery. What region is it in?

5. Find the country in the Basic Data Table and determine if it is a low-, middle-, or high-income economy.

6. According to the Basic Data Table, what is this country's projected population growth rate for 1998-2015? Its 1998 life expectancy at birth? Its 1998 GNP per capita?

7. What do you think life is like for the average person in this country? Support your answer.

8. What, if any, aspects of the activity shown in the photograph might help improve living standards in industrial countries? In developing countries?

9. Which sector of development (i.e., social, economic or environmental) is best represented by the photograph? Explain your answer. Is it possible for this photograph to represent other sectors as well? In what way?

10. In what ways might the activity in the photograph encourage sustainable development? In what ways might it discourage sustainable development? Explain your answer.

Exploring PGR Photo 2


Girls' Education, Mali

1. Look at the photograph. Describe what you see.

2. Would this be a common scene in your country? Why or why not?

3. In which country was this photograph taken?

4. Find the country in the world and regional map gallery. What region is it in?

5. Find the country in the Basic Data Table and determine if it is a low-, middle-, or high-income economy.

6. According to the Basic Data Table, what is this country's projected population growth rate for 1998-2015? Its 1998 life expectancy at birth? Its 1998 GNP per capita? The percentage of its 1990-1996 population with access to safe water?

7. What do you think life is like for the average person in this country? Support your answer.

8. What, if any, aspects of the activity shown in the photograph might help improve living standards in industrial countries? In developing countries?

9. Which sector of development (i.e., social, economic or environmental) is best represented by the photograph? Explain your answer. Is it possible for this photograph to represent other sectors as well? In what way?

10. In what ways might the activity in the photograph encourage sustainable development? In what ways might it discourage sustainable development? Explain your answer.

Exploring PGR Case Study 1

1. Who is the narrator of this case study and why is she holding this meeting?

2. Who attends the meeting?

3. Why do some people say that the village can support more people? Why do other people say that the village cannot support more people?

4. How can spacing pregnancies help to produce a healthier, more economically secure family?

5. What are some of the benefits mentioned for having large families? What are some of the benefits to having small families?

6. In Christy’s opening presentation, she discusses “responsible parenthood” with the women. If you were to give a presentation on “responsible parenthood”, how would you define the term and what topics would you cover?

7. Christy tells the women that she works with the Ministry of Health. Why might the government want to slow population growth and encourage family planning?

8. Vivian tells the group that some of the men “were angry that outsiders were trying to meddle in our private affairs.” To what extent is having children a private matter, a public concern, or both? Use examples from the case study and your own experience to explain your answer.

9. At the end of the case study, Christy suggests that the group continue their meeting by talking about how to get more of the community, especially husbands, interested in family planning. What are some of the objections people might have to family planning? What are some of the reasons people might support family planning? If you were at this meeting, what strategies would you suggest to bring these two sides together?

11. Look at the Social Data Table and find Cameroon. What is the projected 1998–2015 average annual population growth rate? How does this compare with the projected 1998–2015 average annual growth rate for your country?

12. Is family planning an issue where you live? Explain.

PGR Research and Explore

1. Assume that you are the prime minister of a low-income country in which the population growth rate is 3 percent a year. Your government has adopted a policy of reducing the rate to 2 percent over the next 10 years. Listed below are some activities that could help your country reach that goal. Because of budgetary constraints, you cannot undertake all the activities at once.

  1. Choose the five activities that you would undertake first and rank them in the order in which you would implement them. Explain why you chose this ranking.
    • Start a campaign of posters, billboards, radio announcements, and newspaper ads that portray small families as desirable.
    • Have the Ministry of Health train more people to provide family planning services in rural health clinics and urban hospitals.
    • Design pre- and in-service training programs for medical personnel to teach them how to provide family planning services.
    • Contract with national celebrities in sports and entertainment to film public service ads in support of family planning.
    • Have the Ministry of Education develop a curriculum for secondary schools about population growth.
    • Provide financial incentives for parents to send their daughters to school.
    • Have the national university do research to determine how to persuade more couples to practice family planning.
    • Enact a law that will raise the taxes of couples who have more than two children.
    • Enact a law that will lower the taxes of couples who have two or fewer children.
    • Have the Department of Industries develop job training programs for women.
    • Use tax revenue to set up a social security fund so retired people will have a small but secure income.
  2. Are there any activities listed that you would not use? Explain.
  3. What are three additional activities that you would add to your list? Describe each one and explain how it would fit into your ranking.

2. This activity, which demonstrates how much family size can influence a country’s population, is designed to be done in class or with a group of people. If you are doing this activity by yourself, draw it out on a piece of paper.

  1. Four members of the class form two couples. Couple A and their descendants will always have two surviving children; couple B and their descendants will always have three.
  2. Couple A selects two members of the class as its children; couple B selects three members of the class as its children.
  3. The children of couples A and B select members of the class as their spouses. The children of couple A and their spouses are couples C and D; the children of couple B and their spouses are couples E, F, and G.
  4. Couples C and D each select two members of the class as their children. Couples E, F, and G each select three members of the class as their children. How many children altogether do couples C and D have? Couples E, F, and G?
  5. Continue the activity through another generation (the fourth); members of the class already selected will have to be selected again. At the end of the generations, there will be eight children who are descendants of couple A and twenty-seven who are descendants of couple B.
  6. What conclusions can you draw from this exercise?

3. Make a family tree by going back to your great-grandparents on both your mother’s and father’s sides of the family. To whatever extent possible, list the years in which people were born, were married, and died, as well as their occupations and levels of education. If you do not know all of the information yourself, interview other family members; older relatives are excellent sources. After your family tree is assembled, analyze the data you collected and answer the following questions to the best of your knowledge.

Note: Although one of the objectives of this exercise is to help you become more informed about your own family, if you are unable to collect information from your family, or if your family feels uncomfortable discussing this information, you can interview a neighbor’s or friend’s family instead.

  1. Do your parents have as many children as your grandparents had? as your great-grandparents had?
  2. Are there differences among the generations in respect to life expectancy?
  3. Are there differences between the sexes in respect to life expectancy?
  4. Did any of your family suffer from diseases that are preventable today?
  5. Does your data suggest any relationship between life expectancy, occupation, and/or education level and the number of children people had?
  6. How many children would you like to have? Does knowing your family history have any bearing on your decision? Explain.

4. People’s decisions about family size affect not only themselves, but also the other people they share resources with. This exercise helps show how changes in population size over time can affect the demand on public services and natural resources. The more information and the more types of information you can collect, the more complete picture you can make, so it is best to do this exercise with a whole class. Because some information may be difficult to find, you may have to settle for estimates, but estimates can still show trends.

  1. Find out what your community’s population was ten years ago and what it is today. Has it grown or declined, and by how much?
  2. With your class, make a list of the services and resources you and your family must share with other members of your community. (Some ideas may include: schools, roads, public transportation, water, sewerage systems, electricity, telephones, fuel, or parks.)
  3. Break up into small groups, and divide the list equally among the groups. With your small group find evidence of how demand for your group's resources or services has changed over the past ten years. You may find that ten years ago, a particular service did not even exist, or that a resource that was widely used ten years ago is not around today. Try to gather information from a variety of sources, such as local government offices, interviews with older family members and neighbors, photographs, libraries, newspaper clippings and archives, and utility companies or coops.
  4. With your small group, present your findings to the class in a short written or oral report.
  5. As a whole class compare the findings with the population trends. As population has grown or declined, which resources and services have grown or declined with it? Which have not?
  6. Individually, use the evidence your class has collected to write a short essay answering the question: If your community’s population continues to grow or decline over the next ten years as it has in the past ten years, what additional changes do you expect to see in the demand for resources and services? Is this change sustainable? Explain.

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