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Demographic Transition Theory │ With Diagrams │ Theory of Demographic Transition


The demographic transition theory is one of the significant theories of population studies. This theory documented data and statistics of changing demographic history perfectly. This theory illustrates the changes in birth rate and death rate and consequently on the growth rate of the population. Along with the economic development, tendencies of birth rate and death rate are different. Because of it, the growth rate of the population is also varied.


PIONEER OF THE THEORY: W.S. Thompson (1929) and Frank Notestein (1945) published its original form by the studies in Europe, Anglo-America and Australia.

Demographic transition refers to a population cycle that begins with a fall in the death rate, continues with a phase of rapid population growth and concludes with a decline in the birth rate - E.G. Dolan

According to this theory, a particular pattern of demographic changes from a high fertility and high mortality to low fertility and low mortality with the progression of agriculture-based illiterate human civilization to literate, urbanized, modern society. The theory clearly based on three hypotheses as follows.
      1. The decile in mortality comes before the decline infertility.
      2. The fertility eventually declines to match mortality.
      3. The socio-economic transformation of a society takes place simultaneously with its demographic changes.
According to the demographic transition theory, population growth will have to go through different stages during the progression of economic development. C.P. Blacker divided stages of population progress into four types as high stationary, early expanding, low stationery and diminishing. The four stages of demographic transition are explained as follows.

 FIRST STAGE  –  Pre-Industrial Stage 

This stage has been called high population growth potential stage

CHARACTERISTICS...........................................
      1. It is characterized by highly stationary and fluctuating birth and death rates which will almost neutralize each other.
      2. The population is mostly stable, as the stage with slow population growth.
      3. The death rates are high because there is an increased disease, minimal medical care, poor sanitation, and limited food supplies.
      4. People mostly live in rural areas and their main occupation is agriculture which is in the stage of backwardness.
      5. Although the birth-rate and death-rate can fluctuate slightly, overall, they remain equal, which results in zero population growth.
      6. Population growth was kept low by Malthusian "preventative" (late age at marriage) and "positive" (famine, war, pestilence) checks.

 SECOND STAGE  –  Early Transition Stage 

It is called the stage of population explosion or early expanding stage of growth.

CHARACTERISTICS...................................................
      1. In this stage the death rate is decreasing while the birth rate remains constant at a high level.
      2. Agricultural and industrial productivity gradually increases, means of transport and communication develops.
      3. There is great mobility of labours in this stage.
      4. Education and income of people also increase as mechanization and urbanization takes place.
      5. People get more and better quality of food products as agriculture are gradual development.
      6. Medical and health facilities are also expanded.
      7. During the stage economic development is accelerated due to individual and government efforts.

 THIRD STAGE  –  Late Transition Stage 

This stage is known as a population stage because the population continues to grow at a fast rate and thus called stage of late expanding.

CHARACTERISTICS…................……………….
      1. The birth rate as compared to the death rate declines more rapidly.
      2. Consequently, the population grows at a diminishing rate.
      3. This stage observers a drop in the birth rate while the death rate stays constant because it has already declined to the minimum level.
      4. Birth rate declines due to the influence of economic development, changing social attitudes and improved facilities for family planning.
      5. The population continues to rise fast because the death rate stops falling while birth rate though decreasing but remains higher than the death rate.

 FOURTH STAGE  –  Post Transition 

It is called the stage of stationary population or the stage of low stationary and the post-industrial stage.

CHARACTERISTICS……………………….
      1. Post-transitional societies are characterized by low birth and low death rates.
      2. Population growth is negligible, or even enters a decline.
      3. Birth rate and death rate are both at a low level and they are again near balance.
      4. There is little growth in population and it becomes more or less stationary at a low level.
      5. This stage is also known as the stage of zero population growth. 


General Discussion.............................................

In the first stage, fertility and mortality both are very high, more than 35/1000. The nature of mortality is, however, erratic due to inconstant food supply and epidemics. This stage is mainly based on agro-based society as it totally depends on primary activities. Therefore, a slowly growing population with lower density, illiteracy, and low life expectancy was found. About 2000 years ago, all the countries of the world were at this stage of demographic transition with a lack of modern and technological development. In this context, this stage has been called as the pre-industrial and pre-modern stage.


The second stage of demographic transition is characterized by a gradual decrease in fertility (over 30/1000) and a clear reduction in mortality (over 15/1000). In this stage, improvement in health and sanitation conditions brought this situation. Therefore, a rapid expansion of the population occurred with the help of new industrialization, urbanization, and modernization in the society. Consequently, life expectancy starts improving, and most of the developing countries of the world are passing through this explosive stage of demographic transition. The country like Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Yemen, Ghana, etc are in this category where fertility rates have started declining but since a sharp decline in mortality helps the growth of population.


The third or late expanding stage is characterized by a declining growth rate as the rate of birth stabilized or declines. The modern urban and industrial societies with high literacy and technological advancement help to this reduction in population growth rate. The country like China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Colombia, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, etc are in this category.


The last stage of demographic transition is shown a considerable decline in both birth and death rates. Thus, this decline is correlated with the growth of urban and industrial society. Extreme literacy of people controls the family size, developed their own higher skill and awareness. Therefore, countries like USA, Canada, England, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Russia, Switzerland, Nederland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, New-Zealand, Japan, Singapore, etc are supposed to reach this stage with zero population growth with a higher urbanized advanced society.


Criticism..............................................................
      1. Although this theory widely appreciated by demographers all over the world, it has been criticized by many scholars. Some significant criticisms are as follows.
      2. It is based on empirical observations in Anglo-America, Europe, and Australia. Thus, socio-economic conditions in those countries and other developing countries are far different, which does not consider properly.
      3. Different stages in the demographic transition theory is neither predictive nor sequential and certain. Therefore, some countries like China and India do not come under any particular stage as countries have a high population with advanced industrial and urban development.
      4. The human’s role in the innovation of technology and medicine fields can not be underestimated.



Despite all the omissions and charges, the demographic transition theory provides us an effective and significant view of the world’s demographic changing nature and history.



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Sources of Information: Models in Geography (By M. Husain) │ Wikipedia Economics discussion │ Population Analysis for Policies & Programmes


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