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Data visualization sensation Hans Rosling has a new video out that asks the question “Will saving poor children lead to overpopulation?” He discusses how lifting people out of poverty helps control the population as education and better opportunities gradually work to change family size in more vulnerable communities.

Rosling, of the Gapminder Foundation, explores the world of development through extensive research and data visualization. You may have seen him swallowing swords in a spangly tank top during a TED talk or in our recent interview "The Don of Disco Data" in World Ark magazine.

Heifer International projects and training around the world are part of the solution in two main ways.

One of the first outcomes from project participation is that parents spend additional income for education for their children. Education, especially of girls, has been shown to directly affect birth rates.

Second, and perhaps more important, is the result of Heifer’s helping hungry people feed themselves. Studies dating back to the 1950s show that poverty contributes to overpopulation (and not the other way around). As long as children are seen as social security for old age or emergencies, or as a source of labor for a family struggling day to day, having as many children as possible is seen as an economic benefit. But when the standard of living of a society improves, the population rate begins to level off.

By helping farm families become self-reliant and build security (for old age or emergencies) in their livestock, Heifer is helping families to determine that they have a choice in family size. As poverty declines, so will the birth rate. In this way, Heifer is an important player in the effort to bring population rates down. 


Gapminder Foundation's Hans Rosling on poverty and population. Top photo of La Paz, Bolivia, by Geoff Oliver Bugbee



Donna Stokes

Donna Stokes is the managing editor of World Ark magazine. She has worked for Heifer International since September 2008 when she leaped over to the nonprofit world from a two-decade career in newspaper journalism.