Population And The American Future
The Report Of The
Commission On Population Growth And The American Future
John D. Rockefeller 3rd,
March 27, 1972
Office of Population Affairs, Department of Health, Education and Welfare
National Institute of Population Sciences
Department of Community Development
Office of Population Growth and Distribution
Council of Social Advisers
Joint Committee on Population
State Population Agencies and Commissions
Private Efforts and Population Policy
exists within the federal government with regard to population. Although many
departments and agencies administer programs which influence and are influenced
by population growth and distribution, these subjects have not, until very
recently, been of specific concern to either the executive or legislative
branches. This Commission has made a number of recommendations directed toward:
(1) increasing public knowledge of the causes and consequences of population
change; (2) facilitating and guiding the processes of population movement; (3)
maximizing information about human reproduction and its consequences for the
family; and (4) enabling individuals to avoid unwanted fertility.1
Many of these
recommendations require governmental action, and some can be carried out by
existing structures. But, in many cases, the recommendations illustrate the need
for changes in governmental structure in order to acknowledge and deal with
population issues, and to conduct research, develop policy, and administer
programs more effectively. In addition, legislative review of population-related
programs needs to be improved. We believe that both the executive and
legislative branches of the federal government must give greater attention to
population-related issues and programs.
The Commission recommends that
organizational chances be undertaken to improve the federal government’s
capacity to develop and implement population-related programs; and to evaluate
the interaction between public policies, pro grams, and population trends.
of Health, Education and Welfare was the first federal agency to begin giving
serious attention to population-related problems and is the major locus for both
family planning services and population research. In 1967, the Secretary
appointed a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population and Family Planning.
Subsequently, the title was changed to Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population
Affairs. P.L. 91-572, passed in 1970, requires the Deputy Assistant Secretary to
administer all family planning service and population research programs of the
Department, provide and support training of personnel, serve as a clearinghouse
for information, provide liaison with other agencies of the federal government
that have responsibilities relating to family planning services and population
research, and coordinate other Department of Health, Education and Welfare
programs that relate to these fields.
consideration of P.L. 91-572, the Department announced that, in addition to the
proposed statutory powers, the Deputy Assistant Secretary would have line
authority over the contraceptive evaluation program of the Food and Drug
Administration, responsibility for preparation and presentation of budgets for
family planning services and population research, and adequate staff to carry
out his responsibilities. This authority would be exercised through two
officials selected by the Deputy Assistant Secretary and who would have dual
appointments within the Department. One would be named as an Assistant Director
of the National Institutes of Health for Population Research, and the other as
an Assistant Administrator of the Health Services and Mental Health
Administration for Family Planning Services. Both would also serve as special
assistants to the Deputy Assistant Secretary. Most of these arrangements have
not yet been carried out.
Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare gave the Deputy
Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs overall departmental responsibility
for coordinating population education. As yet, however, there is no staff and
only a small budget has been requested to carry out this program.
that creation of the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary and the Office of
Population Affairs was a step toward giving population-related programs in the
Department the overall direction and coordination which they need. Although
there has been some progress in this direction, it has been limited by failure
to carry through on the specified arrangements.
We recommend that the capacity of the
Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the population field be
substantially increased by strengthening the Office of Population Affairs and
expanding its staff in order to augment its role of leadership within the
As we noted
earlier, the financial commitment to population research is not sufficient to
deal with the problems presented. The Commission believes that the institutional
framework for the population research program is also inadequate.
focus of the federal population research program is the Center for Population
Research —an operating unit of the National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development. The Center supports research in the development of new
contraceptives, the medical effects of existing methods of fertility control,
and the social and behavioral aspects of population change. Although creation of
the Center was a worthwhile development in 1968 when the government was first
beginning to acknowledge the need for population research, the program has now
outgrown this organizational arrangement.
In addition to
population research, the National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development houses research programs in aging and early childhood development.
Both of these are important fields, requiring significant research efforts, but
population research has been growing at a much faster rate than the other two
programs. This results in two problems. First, advocates of research in aging
and early childhood development believe that population research is being
advanced at the expense of their programs. Second, administrators of the
Institute have felt it necessary to maintain some balance among its programs.
This appears to be at least part of the reason why population research has not
been funded at its authorized levels. If all of the funds recommended by this
Commission for population research in fiscal year 1973 were approved, it would
be funded at a level greater than the other programs combined. It is apparent
that the additional large increases recommended by the Commission for ensuing
years will be difficult if not impossible to achieve under the present
arrangement. All three areas of research —aging, early childhood development,
and population research— could benefit from moving the population research
program from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
expanded and more focused population research effort is needed. In addition to
strengthening programs in basic and applied reproductive research and evaluation
of contraceptives, the behavioral research program must be significantly
enlarged. In addition, the population research program must have the prestige to
attract the very best investigators.
Creation of a
separate institute should provide a stronger base from which this increased
effort can be directed. It would facilitate acquisition of qualified personnel,
laboratory and clinical space, and other resources necessary for a diversified
research program. It would increase the visibility of the population research
program, signal to the world that it ranks high among our research priorities,
and should help in commanding the level of funding that we believe is necessary
but which has not been forthcoming.
We therefore recommend the establishment,
within the National Institutes of Health, of a National Institute of Population
Sciences to provide an adequate institutional framework for implementing a
greatly expanded program of population research.
affecting population distribution are scattered throughout the government. For
example, the problems of growth and development of urban, suburban, and rural
communities are closely related but, depending on their size, communities that
seek help for planning and constructing public facilities must deal with one or
more of three different departments that support these activities.
We believe it
is necessary to make organizational changes to coordinate and, in some cases,
consolidate existing urban and rural development programs and provide a locus
for the studies of population growth and distribution necessary for policy
development and program implementation in the areas of housing, economic
development, transportation, and other related fields.
currently considering legislation that would establish a new Department of
Community Development.* Under this proposed reorganization, a single federal
department would administer the major programs of assistance for the physical
and institutional development of communities —for planning and building houses,
for supporting public facilities and highways, and for strengthening state and
local governmental processes. Among the programs which the reorganization would
move to this Department would be all of the programs of the Department of
Housing and Urban Development (except for the college housing program); the
highway construction and mass transit programs of the Department of
Transportation; the rural electrification, public facilities, and housing
programs of the Department of Agriculture; the programs of financial and
planning assistance for public works and development facilities (except business
development) of the Economic Development Administration of the Department of
Commerce, and that Department’s Regional Action Planning Commissions; and the
Community Action and “special impact” programs of the Office of Economic
* A separate
statement by Commissioner Alan Cranston appears on page 153.
is one of four submitted by President Nixon for reorganization of the federal
departments. Each of them raises a great number of issues that are not our
concern and on which we are not qualified to comment. However, from the
perspective of better facilitating and guiding population distribution,
coordination and consolidation of urban and rural development programs is
essential. The proposal for the Department of Community Development does not
include a specific provision for the increased research in population growth and
distribution which we feel is necessary for adequate policy formulation and
program development within its areas of concern. This should be provided for in
the new Department.
recommend that Congress adopt legislation to establish a Department of Community
Development and that this Department undertake a program of research on the
interactions of population growth and distribution and the programs it
There are other functions necessary to the formulation of a coherent national
development policy which we believe cannot be handled adequately at the
departmental level, but require a higher level of authority and perspective.
These are discussed in the next section.
has no explicit population policy. Federal programs generally operate without
regard to their effects upon population growth and distribution or how shifts in
population patterns affect programs. The Commission believes that
population-related factors must be given much more weight in the future
development and implementation of a variety of federal policies and programs.
Moreover, the content of a population policy would not be inflexible, but would
need to be adjusted over time in the light of emerging developments, increased
knowledge, and changing attitudes of both policy makers and the general public.
To accomplish this requires much more than strengthening the Office of
Population Affairs within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare or
establishing a Department of Community Development.
What is needed
is an organizational unit with the ability to take the broadest possible view of
population issues, to transcend individual departmental points of view, and to
develop and formulate coherent population policies. This can be done most
effectively from the Executive Office of the President which is able to
coordinate the activities of all departments. This new office should:
Establish objectives and criteria for
shaping national growth and distribution policies.
Monitor, anticipate, and appraise the
effects on population of all governmental activities —including health,
education, and welfare programs; urban and rural development programs; defense
procurement policies; and tax laws— and the effect that population growth and
distribution will have on the implementation of all governmental programs.
Provide for the review, integration, and
coordination of population programs, giving consideration to the role played by
nongovernmental resources and institutions.
Assume responsibility for preparation and
submission of the biennial Report on Urban Growth required by the Housing
Act of 1970.
Assist state and other units of government
concerned about population matters in dealing with their problems.
In order to
carry out effectively the monitoring of federal policies for their effect upon
growth and distribution, the office should have the power to require, from
federal agencies, statements indicating that an agency has given consideration
to possible population-related effects of proposed programs and how programs in
operation have affected population growth and distribution.
should report to the President and the Congress annually. There should be an
Advisory Committee composed of experts in various population related fields,
representatives of interested groups, and other citizens. It is essential that
such an office be provided with the staff and funds necessary to carry out this
range of activities. To create an office within the Executive Office of the
President, and then require it to rely upon staff work from other federal
agencies would hinder drastically the development of the broad and impartial
perspective that is needed.
We therefore recommend the creation of an
Office of Population Growth and Distribution within the Executive Office of the
There are a
number of advisory bodies within the Executive Office of the President that have
broad responsibilities over other areas of concern. These agencies have not, in
the past, given sufficient consideration to the effects of demographic variables
on the nation’s economic, social, environmental, and scientific life.
We therefore recommend the immediate
addition of personnel with demographic expertise to the staffs of the Council of
Economic Advisers, the Domestic Council, the Council on Environmental Quality,
and the Office of Science and Technology.
Two years of
study and deliberation have demonstrated to us that population is intimately
tied to numerous social issues. Yet, innumerable social programs are undertaken
by the government each year without having any of the overall direction that we
have imposed upon our economic and environmental activities. The Council of
Economic Advisers and the Council on Environmental Quality keep the President
and the public informed of the effects of public needs and policies with regard
to the economy and the environment and recommend programs to assist economic
growth and stability and to preserve the environment. The Commission believes
that population and related social matters require the same level of attention.
We therefore recommend that Congress approve
pending legislation establishing a Council of Social Advisers and that this
Council have as one of its main functions the monitoring of demographic
If this legislation is passed, if the Council is adequately funded and staffed,
and if it shows that it will give proper consideration to population problems,
then it could and should take over the functions and role of the Office of
Population Growth and Distribution.
been the arm of government most interested in population problems. It was the
hearings conducted by Senator Gruening, beginning in 1965, that first focused
public attention on the need for federally subsidized family planning and
population research programs. The urban growth policy provisions of the Housing
Act of 1970 were a congressional initiative, and several bills urging the
establishment of a Commission on Population were introduced in Congress as early
jurisdiction over population-related programs is scattered among many committees
of Congress. The P.L. 91-572 family planning services and population research
programs are within the purview of the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee
of the House of Representatives. But family planning services authorized by the
Social Security Act and the Economic Opportunity Act fall under the jurisdiction
of the Ways and Means and the Education and Labor Committees respectively.
Housing legislation is handled by the banking committees of the House and
Senate, while transportation is the concern of the commerce committees. It is
impossible to combine jurisdiction over the many issues relating to population
under one committee. However, if congressional review of population matters is
to be most effective, some focal point within Congress is necessary. One
committee should have responsibility for studying issues from the perspective of
their effect upon population growth and distribution, for spotlighting problems,
and for reviewing the implementation of federal programs in these areas.
In order to provide improved legislative
oversight of population issues, the Commission recommends that Congress assign
to a joint committee responsibility for specific review of this area.
Many of the
recommendations of this Commission require action by state and local
governments. However, only a few states have agencies which give serious
attention to the problems of population growth and distribution. One example of
high-level attention to state population problems is the recent report and
recommendations of the California State Assembly Science and Technology Advisory
state, Hawaii, has established a population agency, and it is temporary. A poll
conducted by he State of Hawaii Commission on Population Stabilization showed
that 22 states have no specific agency concerned with these problems. In most of
the remaining states, population is the concern of planning, resource, or
environmental agencies. However, in responding to the Hawaii poll, 27 states
indicated that hey considered population growth a problem; four taxes viewed
population loss as a problem; and 12 states responded that distribution is a
problem, including six which define the problem as one of both growth and
distribution. Forty-one states reported that they would like to meet with
representatives of other states to discuss population and what might be done at
federal and state levels to influence growth. This interest and concern should
The Commission recommends that state
governments, either through existing planning agencies or through new agencies
devoted to this purpose, give greater attention to the problems of population
growth and distribution.
We have taken
the position that population growth, size, and distribution are too important to
be left to chance in the formation of public policy, and that they require a
continuing and conscious effort by government to assess the demographic impacts
of alternative policy proposals. We believe that population problems are
complex, that they are and will continue o be of critical importance to American
society, that ye are only in the beginning stages of learning how to deal with
these problems as a matter of conscious policy and programming, and that these
problems will require sustained attention over a period of years.
the government’s ability to cope with population issues requires that the
private sector use its independence and flexibility to facilitate policy
formation. This may be done through policy-oriented research and analysis,
monitoring and assessing change, education and training, and communication of
the results of these processes to relevant publics. The private institutions
which currently have some relationship to population policy include
universities, voluntary and professional organizations, citizens groups, private
corporations, and, private foundations. The normal interests of these
institutions, individually or collectively, do not presently ensure an adequate
overall private effort.
the normal interests of discipline-oriented academic institutions do not
necessarily assign priority to studies essential to policy formation. Even when
academic research produces findings directly relevant to policy formation, they
are often not made available in forms which are understandable to and usable by
policy makers. Many critical policy-related studies in the last decade did not
emerge as planned products of the academic research on which they were based,
but rather as a result of reanalysis stimulated by groups closer to the
universities and other institutions which have as their primary focus the
population problems of developing countries do not have the funds and personnel
to be effective in policy formation at home. Domestic population questions are
complex enough to require full-time concentration and commitment, free of
pressure from other priorities.
of private support for research and policy development has been utilized to deal
with other issues. For example, several independent organizations are devoted to
research, education, and publication in the field of economic policy. Among
their purposes are aiding the development of sound public policies and promoting
public understanding of issues of national importance. There is no reason to
specify an exact organizational model for activity required in the population
field, but we are at a stage of development in this area where major privately
funded activities in development of population policy are required.
We therefore recommend that a substantially
greater effort focusing on policy-oriented research and analysis of population
United States be carried forward through appropriate private resources and
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