Table of Contents | Chapter 5 | Chapter 7
U.S. Population and Sustainability
Population growth, especially when
coupled with current consumption
patterns, affects sustainability.
A sustainable United States is one
where all Americans have access to
family planning and reproductive
health services, women enjoy
increased opportunities for education and employment, and
responsible immigration policies are fairly
implemented and enforced.
The previous chapters of this report have addressed the various
economic, environmental, and social implications of how people individually
and collectively use resources in the United States. This overarching issue of
consumption appears throughout the report -- from our
related to extended product responsibility and the use of market mechanisms to the
development of sustainable communities, collaborative natural resources management
systems, and an individual stewardship ethic. Understanding and addressing the unsustainable aspects of the nation's production and consumption patterns are essential to
achieving the goals outlined in this report. But clearly, human impact on the environment
is a function of both population and consumption patterns.
It is possible for more people to have a smaller impact but
only if -- through changes in lifestyle or technological
progress -- each person uses fewer
produces less waste. Even if technological progress
reduces the rate at which the United States uses resources
and generates waste on a per capita basis, population
growth will make the objective of sustainable development more difficult.
With a population of more than 261 million, the United
States is the third largest country in the world. As a result
of natural increase, defined as the difference between
births and deaths, and immigration, the U.S. population is
growing by 3 million people each year, or 1 percent
more than twice the annual growth rate in most of Europe and in most industrialized
countries, but far less than in developing countries. The U.S. Census Bureau projects
that if current demographic trends persist, the U.S. population will reach 350 million
people by the year 2030, and almost 400 million by the middle of the 21st century.  To
put these numbers in perspective, under current trends, the United States is adding the
equivalent of Connecticut's population every year and of California's every decade.
Production and consumption in the United States together form the critical link between
population and sustainability. National quality of life derives in large part from the
unprecedented scale of U.S. production and consumption. Production and consumption
account for the throughput, or total mass of materials and energy that is used and makes
its way through the economy, resulting in a U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) of more
than $6.4 trillion in 1994. 
This high standard of living is also reflected in a high level of consumption -- a level
amplified by growth in population. The United States consumes more than 4.5 billion
metric tons of materials annually to produce the goods and services that make up its
unparalleled economic activity. (See figure 12.) One example of U.S. consumption
patterns can be found in the energy sector. The United States has 5 percent of the
world's population but accounts for approximately 25 percent of global energy use on
an annual basis. There is greater opportunity for improvements in energy efficiency in
the United States than in other industrialized nations; U.S. energy use per unit of GDP is
approximately 36 percent greater than in Germany and 79 percent greater than in Japan.
Use of petroleum feedstocks is seven times the world's per capita average. In 1994, the
United States used 19.9 million barrels of oil per day, while the remaining 24
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries collectively used
23.8 million barrels per day. The United States is also the world's leading producer of
garbage and industrial wastes. 
There is nothing inherently wrong with a population -- even a large one
-- meeting its
material needs by consuming resources and creating wastes. Problems arise when the
numbers of people and the scale, composition, and pattern of their consumption and
waste generation combine to have negative effects on the environment, the economy, and
society. Together, the size of the population and the scale of consumption impinge
significantly on American society's ability to achieve sustainability. There is
concrete information about the long-term consequences of choices made by consumers,
but such information will be essential in order to change patterns of consumption in the
United States; it should be developed and made available.
Because the United States has the world's third largest population and the largest economy,
with an unparalleled scale of per capita consumption and waste generation, even
slight changes in U.S. consumption patterns or population size can have a significant
impact on sustainability. Annual per capita gains in reducing wastes, improving resource
efficiency, and promoting economic growth must exceed I percent to translate into real
reductions in environmental impact and real growth in the American standard of living.
Thus, unless some technological change substantially reduces the scale of resources
needed to maintain the current quality of life in the United States, continued population
growth steadily makes more difficult the job of mitigating the environmental impact of
American resource use and waste production patterns. Based on current trends,
efficiency in the use of all resources would have to increase by more than 50 percent over
the next four or five decades just to keep pace with population growth.
Managing population growth, resources, and wastes is essential to ensuring that the total
impact of these factors is within the bounds of sustainability. Stabilizing the population
without changing consumption and waste production patterns would not be enough, but
it would make an immensely challenging task more manageable. In the United States,
each is necessary; neither alone is sufficient.
Sustainable development explicitly recognizes the obligation of the current generation to
future generations. Taking this obligation seriously means examining the difficult issues
and hearing divergent views to make informed decisions about what best serves the
interests of America. As recognized at the International Conference on Population and
Development in Cairo in 1994, all nations have responsibility for managing population
growth. The United States must provide leadership by setting an example.
Involving as it does such difficult issues as personal childbearing decisions, contraceptive
methods, teenage sexual behavior, and the high rate of abortion in America, as well as legal
and illegal immigration trends, the subject of U.S. population growth is complex and
controversial. It raises a variety of moral and ethical concerns. The Council believes that these
issues can be approached forthrightly and must be addressed with great care, full respect,
and in a way that is consistent with the various religious and ethical values and cultural
backgrounds of the American people. The discussion and recommendations in this chapter
focus on family planning, personal responsibility, and voluntarism. The Council has not
discussed nor do its recommendations relate to or take a position on the issue of abortion.
On the issue of population, the emphasis of the Council's recommendations is on
enabling parents to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their
children, based on the strongly held and unchallenged conviction that voluntary decision-making
lies at the heart of all American family planning. The Council also recognizes
that the issue of immigration is potentially explosive and urges that legal and illegal
immigration be addressed with great sensitivity and recognition of long-standing
American traditions of fairness, freedom, and asylum. Finally, while the Council
encourages realization of its goals and recommendations throughout America, it wants to make
clear that it seeks to move toward voluntary population stabilization at the national level,
recognizing that the population of any state or region will ebb and flow according to the
choices of individuals and families about where to live and work.
This report as a whole covers various aspects of consumption in the United States --
from the recommendations on extended product responsibility and sound fiscal policies
to the promotion of sustainable communities and encouragement of collaborative
approaches to managing natural resources. Because much of the report deals with issues
involved in responsible consumption, this chapter recommends complementary policies
that would move the United States toward voluntary population stabilization and sustainable development.
Expanding Reproductive Health Services
Simply addressing and ensuring access to basic reproductive health needs, such as
family planning, education, and pre- and post-natal care, would
move the United
States toward population stabilization. Indeed, failing to do so partly explains why
60 percent of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended.  High rates of
unintended pregnancy contribute to a higher rate of natural increase (excess of births over
deaths); this in turn adds significantly to U.S. population growth. In 1992, the U.S.
population grew by nearly 2 million due to natural increase. 
Unintended pregnancies are associated with higher rates of low birth weight and infant
mortality, high rates of abortion, increased need for welfare, more teens forgoing
education, and more children raising children -- all of which contribute
to the deterioration of
American families. These pregnancies affect people in all socioeconomic strata but are
most common among younger and poorer women. National family planning efforts are
critical to preventing unintended pregnancies before they occur and to achieving national
health and social aims. Currently, the principal program providing comprehensive public
family planning services to low-income women and men is under Title X of the Public
Health Service Act of 1970 .6 Title X does not provide funding for abortion. The family
planning services it does provide are estimated to prevent an average of 1.2 million
unintended pregnancies and about half that number of abortions a year. 
The nation's family planning assistance efforts -- whether under Title X or any other
program -- must provide education and outreach to prevent unintended pregnancies. In
general, reproductive health services are targeted to women, but outreach needs to
include men as well, so they can play an equal role in safeguarding their own reproductive
health and that of their partner and in making sound family planning and contraceptive
choices. Years of experience with Title X and other subsidized family planning
programs show that few men use these services without special outreach, counseling,
education, and other efforts to make them feel at ease. Special programs should reach
young men before they become sexually active to help them build the skills and strategies
needed for sexual health and responsibility. Clearly, the importance of the relationship
between national family planning assistance efforts and population must be
recognized as the nation goes forward. For example, funding for Title X fell by more
than 70 percent in real dollars between 1980 and 1992 and has not been reauthorized by
Congress since 1984.  Because of this, the ability of
Title X to provide services to high-risk
individuals and underserved or hard-to-reach populations becomes problematic.
Reducing unintended pregnancies in the United States depends on the empowerment and
participation of both men and women.
Public and private health insurance coverage of comprehensive reproductive health
services is another essential means of preventing unintended pregnancies. For example,
Medicaid is the largest public funder of family planning services, but because eligibility
is tied to welfare eligibility, fewer than half of poor women are covered by Medicaid. In
1986, the federal government expanded Medicaid coverage to pregnant women and
infants with incomes 133 percent of the poverty level, regardless of whether they meet
other welfare requirements. But coverage under this extension does not include family
planning services until after childbirth, and then only for 60 days. Thus, Medicaid in its
current form is not an effective source of services for preventing first pregnancies among
these women, nor for ensuring that future pregnancies are planned ones.
As noted above, the rate of unintended pregnancies is higher among poor and low-income
women, but women from all social and economic backgrounds experience unintended
pregnancies. Therefore, private insurance coverage for reproductive health
services also needs to be considered in examining the effectiveness of services to women
for the prevention of unintended pregnancies. Almost two-thirds of women of reproductive
age in the United States do not rely on publicly provided family planning because
they have insurance provided through employment in the private sector. But private
insurance does not uniformly offer adequate coverage for family planning services. Up
to 85 percent of insurance policies and health maintenance organizations cover sterilization
and abortion, but fewer than half of typical plans cover the major reversible contraceptive
methods: in fact, these methods are covered by only 15 percent of plans. 
Expanding private insurance to cover the full range of reproductive health services
should be explored.
In summary, then, an effective way to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and
births in the United States is to expand access to family planning, education, and related
reproductive health services, particularly for at-risk individuals. Family planning is
highly cost-effective compared with the social and public costs of unintended pregnancy,
and it helps ensure that every child is a wanted child.
|POLICY RECOMMENDATION 1|
|GREATER ACCESS TO AND AVAILABILITY OF SERVICES
Expand access to and availability
of the family planning and
reproductive health services needed
to prevent unintended pregnancies
and ensure that all Americans
have the information and
services they need to decide freely
and responsibly the number and
spacing of their children.
|ACTION 1. Congress should authorize and sufficiently fund
national family planning programs to ensure that all women
and men, regardless of income, have access to family planning
and related reproductive health care options. In addition, these
efforts should be strengthened to enhance information,
education, and outreach capabilities -- particularly for men and
underserved or hard-to-reach populations.
ACTION 2. Through families, social institutions, and
community-oriented, peer-based, and adult-mentoring programs,
education can be increased and appropriate services provided
for adolescents. Programs can be initiated to encourage parents
and other caregivers to fulfill their role as the primary provider
of values and information. Abstinence and strategies for
discouraging adolescents from engaging in sexual activity can
be encouraged. In addition, access to appropriate services
should be provided to adolescents who are sexually active.
ACTION 3. The public and private sectors can reform health
insurance coverage to ensure that all recipients are afforded
choices among the broadest range of safe, voluntary reproductive
health services. The Medicaid program also should be
reformed to help ensure that recipients who become eligible as
a result of pregnancy have access to family planning services
for an extended period after birth to encourage birth spacing
and discourage future unintended pregnancies.
ACTION 4. Congress should fund -- through federal medical
research laboratories, public-private partnerships, and other
innovative arrangements -- increased research in both basic
and applied reproductive health sciences, including research on
alternative birth control technologies to expand the range of
medically safe contraceptives available to women and men.
Particular attention should be given to women-controlled
barrier methods and methods that protect against sexually
transmitted diseases, post-ovulatory methods, and improved
male methods. Consideration also should be given to strategies
that address product liability concerns that impede contraceptive
research and product development by the private sector.
Teens Teaching Teens
Approximately 30 percent of America's 15-year-olds have had
sexual intercourse at least once.
At age 78, the percentages are 56 for girls and 73 for boys.  Effective teen pregnancy prevention programs should
encourage teens to abstain from sexual activity, equip them to behave
responsibly, and provide appropriate services. Such programs can be
school-based, they should educate young people in reproductive health,
contraception, and sexuality; they should involve males as well as
females; and they should be built on successes demonstrated around the
country. At the some time, the elements of successful teenage pregnancy
prevention programs need to be better understood. As important as the
promotion of abstinence is to preventing teen pregnancy, it cannot be
the only strategy.
The key to one of the most successful pregnancy prevention programs in
the United States is Teens Teaching Teens. Started in 1985 by the
Atlanta public schools and the Grady Health System,
the program has helped hundreds of Georgia teenagers avoid unwanted
Each summer, some 60 juniors and seniors from the Atlanta public schools
train to become student leaders in the Grady Health System program.
Then, for five sessions during eighth-grade health classes, the older
teens encourage the younger ones to postpone sex. Marie Mitchell, program
manager for teen services at the Grady Health System, says, "It's so
successful because it's a teenage-led series. Peer support is created
for the notion that you don't need to be sexually involved. Teens
provide models to other teens showing that it is something you can do."
Eighty-three percent of all teenagers giving birth come from families who
live below the poverty line, the Council was told during a task force
roundtable discussion. Yet the Atlanta program
"manages to reach even the hardest of hard-to-reach youth," according to
Mitchell. A Ford Foundation study confirms that students from low-income
families who participate in the Atlanta program are less likely to be
sexually active than those who do not participate. By the senior year of
high school, although participants' abstinence rates drop, their use of
birth control practices is significantly higher than among those students
that did not participate in the program.
While the program's purpose is to reach younger students, the student
teachers, who are former participants in the program, also learn from
their experience. Notes Mitchell, "Not only does it help them manage
their own sexuality, it also helps them develop more confidence,
leadership skills, and public speaking
Dealing With Socioeconomic Conditions
Poverty and the lack of economic, educational, social, and political
opportunities are important influences on early and unintended
childbearing. Confidence that one can get a job, as well as other factors
that help determine one's sense of hope and self-worth, are powerful
determinants in teen decisionmaking about childbearing. While unintended
pregnancies occur at all incomes, poor women -- both as teenagers and as
adults -- experience a higher proportion of unintended pregnancies
because of lack of access to services and lack of opportunity and
autonomy of various kinds. Unintended pregnancy often becomes yet another
unfortunate consequence of poverty. Women shoulder more than half of the
burden of poverty in the United States; almost two-thirds of the adult
poor are women; and more than half of all poor families are headed by a
single mother. These facts demonstrate the need to
deal with broad social conditions such as poverty that contribute to
unintended pregnancy, and, in turn, to the relatively high rates of
adolescent pregnancy and population growth in the United States compared
with other industrialized countries.
The Council recommends that both the public and private sectors endeavor
separately and in partnership to deal with socioeconomic conditions that
are closely related to high rates of teen and unintended pregnancy. The
public sector has a role to play in developing laws and regulations to
level the playing field in society, encouraging greater equity, and
enhancing opportunities for disadvantaged Americans. The private sector
can play an important role by voluntarily taking the initiative to break
down barriers to women's advancement in the workplace. In addition, by
providing jobs, employment training, and economic opportunity, as it does
in the normal course of business, the private sector can create
opportunity for disadvantaged segments of society. Finally, all Americans
-- as parents, community members, and civic leaders -- have roles to play
in promoting personal responsibility and common values, which will also
support stronger families. Following are representative strategies
offered by the Council for realizing these objectives.
|POLICY RECOMMENDATION 2|
|EXPANDED OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN
Create partnerships to enhance opportunities for women, giving special
attention to socioeconomic factors that result in disproportionately high
levels of unintended and teen pregnancy among disadvantaged segments of
|ACTION 1. National, community, and
religious leaders can foster in all Americans the shared values involved
in personal responsibility and the strengthening of the family, the most
important unit of society.
ACTION 2. The public and private sectors should work in
partnership to ensure that women are not disadvantaged by decisions to
bear and raise children, in terms of educational, employment, and
professional opportunities and advancement.
ACTION 3. Opportunities for women to participate in political and
leadership positions should be expanded at all levels of society, in both
the public and private sectors.
ACTION 4. The public and private sectors should expand
opportunities for women to participate in the workplace, ensuring pay
equity, enhancing the availability of capital for women-owned
enterprises, and promoting women into leadership positions in business.
ACTION 5. The public and private sectors should enhance efforts to
provide educational, economic, and social opportunities for women,
ACTION 6. The public and private sectors and religious community
can encourage innovative community and peer-based counseling efforts for
disadvantaged youth and women to encourage these at-risk groups to
abstain from early sexual activity and realize their full economic,
educational, and social potential.
ACTION 7. The public sector and religious community can encourage
ment to take greater responsibility in child-rearing and family
NEW ECONOMICS FOR WOMEN
Casa Lama is an apartment complex located in one of the poorest
sections of downtown Los Angeles. It is also the site of the cornerstone
project of New Economics for Women (NEW),a nonprofit development
corporation fully owned and operated by women dedicated to improving the
lives of poor single parents and their families.
When Anna Rodriguez, a single parent of four boys aged two to 14, arrived
at Casa Loma, she was on welfare and sewed at home to supplement her
income. Weary of being dependent, Rodriguez, with support from the Casa
Loma project, first obtained a minimum-wage job as a seamstress in
a nearby shop. Then she heard about a new garment factory opening in the
San Fernando Valley, 30 miles away. Despite the distance, she went to
pick up an application, but was told it was too late; the deadline had
passed. The Casa Loma director made a telephone call on her behalf. The
following Monday, Rodriguez reported to work as an $8.50-an-hour
seamstress. Just two weeks later, she was promoted to second designer at
$20 an hour.
"Casa Loma has been an incredibly successful public-private partnership
because we have facilitated and strengthened opportunities for women to
empower themselves," says Beatriz Olvera Stotzer, NEW president and
founder. "Anna is a perfect example of empowerment. She was afraid of
leaving her children at home for fear she would not be a good mother and
was ashamed of being on welfare. We provided the environment and
assistance for her to empower herself."
The Casa Loma project, wich relies on private donations as well as public
funds, combines housing with an aggressive agenda of on-site educational,
social, and business programs. The programs focus on matters that deeply
affect impoverished families: infant and child care in a safe
environment; after-school activities for latchkey kids; training for
adults and children in areas ranging from adult literacy to word
processing and mathematics; and life skill courses in budgeting, finance,
job placement assistance, and micro-enterprise development. Parenting
magazine gave NEW and the Casa Loma project its 1994 Parenting
Achievement Award for making the world a better place for children. The
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers Casa Loma a
national housing model for the 21st
Improving Immigration Strategies
The United States is a nation of immigrants. Today, addressing
immigration is an important aspect of the broad question of population
stabilization in this country. Immigration accounts for one-third of
total U.S. population growth and is a factor that must be addressed in
the overall effort to stabilize population voluntarily. Because new immigrants typically have high fertility
rates, immigration will be a powerful factor in future population
Through the Immigration Act of 1990, Congress established the U.S.
Commission on Immigration Reform to review immigration issues and
strategies. The commission has initiated a
comprehensive review of current U.S. immigration policy; the review
should be complete by the end of 1997. The thrust of the commission's
work has been consistent with the Council's beliefs that policymaking in
the United States should aim toward participatory, collaborative, and
The Council has not examined the full range of difficult and sensitive
issues associated with immigration in the United States. Little
information on the effects of immigration on various aspects of American
society and sustainable development is available. The Council supports
the kind of expert, participatory process established by Congress to
address immigration matters. We also support the creation of policies
that recognize both the nation's historic acceptance of immigrants as
well as the need to limit population growth. In this context, there is
broad agreement that one of the most undervalued strategies related to
immigration involves the promotion of broadly based international
policies-- such as trade and international economic policy, foreign
policy, and international environmental policy -- to address economic,
political, and social conditions that influence an individual's decision
|POLICY RECOMMENDATION 3|
|IMPROVED IMMIGRATION POLICIES
Encourage the Commission on Immigration Reform to continue its work,
and support research to promote the implementation and fair enforcement
of responsible immigration policies.
|ACTION 1. Congress and the relevant
federal agencies should review and address the appropriateness of
recommendations presented by the Commission on Imigration Reform with
respect to American traditions of fairness, freedom, and asylum as well
as the aim of sustainable development. Priority attention should be given
to implement and enforce national policies on illegal and legal
ACTION 2. The federal government should fund research on the
environmental and economic effects of migration to the United States and
population growth in general to inform immigration and other demographic
ACTION 3. U.S. foreign policy and international economic policy
should deal comprehensively with the causes of migration to the United
States. An effective strategy to prevent unlawful migration should be
based on international policies that directly or indirectly address the
factors that encourage people to leave their home countries, including
lack of employment; poor working conditions; political, social, and
religious oppression; and civil conflict.
 Population data are from U.N. Department for Economic and
Social Information and Policy Analysis, World Population Prospects -
1994 Revision (New York: United Nations, 1995), pp. 103-04, table 50;
U.S. Department of Commerce, Statistical Abstract of the United States
1994 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1994), p. 9,
table 4; U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, United States
of America National Report (Washington, D.C.: Council on Environmental
Quality, 1992), p. 26; and Jennifer Cheeseman Day, Population Projects
of the United States, by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1993 to
2050, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current
Population Report (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1993),
 Statistical Abstract of the United States 1994, p. 446.
 General consumption data are from World Resources
Institute, World Resources 1994-95, prepared in collaboration with
the U.N. Environmental Program and the U.N. Development Program (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 15. Energy consumption data are
from U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, World
Population Profle: 1994 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing
Office, 1994), p. 9, fig. 6; and U.S. Department of Energy, Energy
Information Association, International Energy Annual: 1993,
DOE/EIA-0219(93) (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1995), p.
vii. International comparisons are from Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development, OECD Environmental Performance Review
-- Netherlands (Paris, 1995), p. 69, fig. 3.4; World Resources
1994-95, p. 16, table 1.9, and p. 341, table 21.6; and U.N.
Environment Program, Environmental Data Report 1993-94 (Oxford:
the Alden Press, 1993), pp. 347-48, table 8.2.
 Institute of Medicine, The Best Intentions: Unintended
Pregnancy and the Well-Being of Children and Families, S. Brown and
L. Eisenberg, eds. (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1995).
 Data derived by subtracting deaths from births using vital
statistics compiled by the National Center for Health and Human Services
in 1992. See U.S. Health and Human Services, "Advance Report of Final
Mortality Statistics, 1992," Monthly Vital Statistics Report 43,
no. 6 (Hyattsville, Md.: National Institute for Health Statistics, 1994);
and U.S. Health and Human Services, "Advance Report of Final Natality
Statistics, 1991," Monthly Vital Statistics Report 43, no. 5
(Hyattsville, Md.: National Institute for Health Statistics, 1994).
 Public Health Service Act of 1970, 42 U.S.C. Subchapter
VIII, Title X, 300 et seq. (1988).
 The Alan Guttmacher Institute, "The U.S. Family Planning
Program Faces Challenges and Change," Issues in Brief (Washington, D.C.,
 D. Daley and R. Gold, "Public Funding for Contraceptive,
Sterilization, and Aborton Services, Fiscal Year 1992," Family
Planning Perspectives 25, no. 6 (December 1993): 248; and "The U.S.
Family Planning Program Faces Challenges and Change."
 The Alan Guttmacher Institute, Uneven and Unequal:
Insurance Cover and Reproductive Health Service (Washington, D.C., 1994).
 The Alan Guttmacher Institute, Sex and America's
Teenagers (Washington, D.C., 1994), p. 20.
 Information presented by Jacqueline Forrest of The Alan
Guttmacher Institute to the President's Council on Sustainable
Development, Population and Consumption Task Force, Roundtable Discussion
on Fertility and Migration, The George Washington University, Washington,
D.C., 27 October 1994.
 Patricia Donovan, The Politics of Blame: Family
Planning Abortion and the Poor (Washington, D.C.: The Alan Guttmacher
Institute, 1995), p.9.
 Statistical Abstract of the United States 1994,
pp. 9-10, tables 4-6.
 Information presented by jennifer Day of the U.S. Bureau
of the Census to the President's Council on Sustainable Development,
Population and Consumption Task Force, Rountable Discussion on
Fertility and Migration, the George Washington University,
Washington, D.C., 27 October 1994.
 Immigration Act of 1990, Pub. L. 101-649, 104 Stat.