Curbing Global Population Growth: Rockefeller’s Population Council: Rockefeller Foundation, 1952

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



Case Study Sector


In contemplating the work of the foundation his grandfather created, John D. Rockefeller III began to believe that a reduction in mortality resulting from his family’s foundation efforts in medicine, without a corresponding decline in fertility rates, could contribute to unsustainable population growth, particularly in developing countries. In the late 1940s, a Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored team returning from Asia noted that an imminent worldwide surge in population growth demanded immediate action.
In the early 1950s, Rockefeller’s interest in the problems related to population growth led him to provide the financial support for a two-day conference, held under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, the president of which was also the president of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. When the Rockefeller Foundation declined to take up population growth as an issue of concern, Rockefeller formed the Population Council as an independent entity. He provided an initial gift of $100,000 to enable the Council to begin its work.
Rather than develop and advocate public policy positions, the Council made grants to individuals and research institutes in various countries and regions to improve research on population growth that promoted a wider understanding of population issues worldwide. Also, understanding the sensitivities across cultures regarding population control, particularly birth control, the Council sought to strengthen the indigenous capacity of researchers and governments in various countries throughout the world to address population issues in ways consistent with local cultural norms.



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