Why Is Africa Different?

Robert Wyman + Follow

Copy and paste the embed code above.
Sorry, you need to install flash to see this content.

Lecture Description

In addition to cultural controls acting to maximize fertility, there are important, and often competing, interests of individual families to limit fertility. Unwanted births are dealt with by infanticide in many cultures. Additionally, fertility is regularly controlled by limiting marriage within a culture. Another very important factor in population growth, especially in the tropics, is food availability. Heavy rains in the tropics wash nutrients away, leaving deficient soils. Much of Africa is either too dry or too wet. Africa was, until recently, not densely populated. Since land was available and because more children meant more security and power, a culture evolved that emphasized high fertility, justified by the need for descendants to pacify ancestors. Sub-Saharan (tropical) Africa has the highest birth rates in the world. As an example, Niger, just south of the Sahara desert has a fertility rate of almost eight children per woman while, in the Mediterranean zone, Morocco, just north of the Sahara, but also a Sunni Muslim country, has a rate of only 3.3 children per woman.

Course Description

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.


  1. Evolution of Sex and Reproductive Strategies
  2. Sex and Violence Among the Apes
  3. From Ape to Human
  4. When Humans Were Scarce
  5. Why Is Africa Different?
  6. Malthusian Times
  7. Demographic Transition in Europe; Mortality Decline
  8. Demographic Transition in Europe; Fertility Decline
  9. Demographic Transition in Europe
  10. Quantitative Aspects
  11. Low Fertility in Developed Countries (Guest Lecture by Michael Teitelbaum)
  12. Human and Environmental Impacts
  13. Fertility Attitudes and Practices
  14. Demographic Transition in Developing Countries
  15. Female Disadvantage
  16. Population in Traditional China
  17. Population in Modern China
  18. Economic Impact of Population Growth
  19. Economic Motivations for Fertility
  20. Teen Sexuality and Teen Pregnancy
  21. Global Demography of Abortion
  22. Media and the Fertility Transition in Developing Countries (Guest Lecture by William Ryerson)
  23. Biology and History of Abortion
  24. Population and the Environment

Lecture Details

Source:  Yale Open Courses
Filmed: Spring 2009




Why should I sign up?

  • Follow popular educators and their latest work
  • Get updates and notification from educators
  • Interact with educators even comment on their work


No comments have been posted yet. Login or register to be the first to start the discussion!