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Demographic Transition Theory or Demographic Cycle

The Demographic transition model (DTM) is a model used to represent the process of explaining the transformation of countries from high birth rates and high death rates to low birth rates and low death rates as part of the economic development of a country from a pre-industrial to an industrialized economy. It is based on an interpretation begun in 1929 by the American demographer Warren Thompson of prior observed changes, or transitions, in birth and death rates in industrialized societies over the past two hundred years.

Stage one ( high stationary)

• In stage one, pre-industrial society, death rates and birth rates are high and roughly in balance.
• the birth rate is constant, while the death rate fluctuates due to manmade and natural disasters as famines, floods and wars.

Stage two ( early expanding )

• In stage two, that of a developing country, the death rates drop rapidly due to improvements in food supply and sanitation, which increase life spans and reduce disease. These changes usually come about due to improvements in farming techniques, access to technology, basic healthcare, and education. Without a corresponding fall in birth rates this produces an imbalance, and the countries in this stage experience a large increase in population.

Stage three ( late expanding)

• In stage three, birth rates fall due to access to contraception, increases in wages, urbanization, a reduction in subsistence agriculture, an increase in the status and education of women, a reduction in the value of children's work, an increase in parental investment in the education of children and other social changes. Population growth begins to level off.

Stage four ( low stationary)

• During stage four there are both low birth rates and low death rates. Birth rates may drop to well below replacement level as has happened in countries like Germany, Italy, and Japan, leading to a shrinking population

• As the large group born during stage two ages, it creates an economic burden on the shrinking working population. Death rates may remain consistently low or increase slightly due to increases in lifestyle diseases due to low exercise levels and high obesity and an aging population in developed countries.

• Birth rates fluctuate, indicative of fertility control as people alter their reproduction according to socioeconomic changes.

Stage five (declining)

• The population begins to decline due to lower birth rate as compared to death rate
• Developed countries are facing this problem

England was the first country to pass through the demographic transition. This took approximately 200 years. Some other countries, such as Japan, which started the process rather later than England, completed their passage through the transition in less than half that time.

The extent to which this theory applies to less-developed societies today remains to be seen. Many countries such as China, Brazil and Thailand have passed through the DTM very quickly due to fast social and economic change. Some countries, particularly African countries, appear to be stalled in the second stage due to stagnant development and the effect of AIDS.

  1. Not applicable to less developed countries (lack of quality data, ignores HIV infection)
  2. Generalization of Europe
  3. Ignoring social change compared to economic and industrial change
  4. Unable to explain baby-boom and baby-bust syndrome
  5. Does not explain population momentum


Steve Salmony said...

Anonymous said...

A very good article, i found it very helpful in understanding population dynamics as they relate to the demographic transition theory.

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