The demographic transition model attempts to explain the changes to birth and death rates that are experienced as a country develops, and the resultant changes in total population. It helps to explain why the worlds population has increases so rapidly.

In stage 1 people needs to have many children to help in farming and to look after parents in old age.  Most children die before they reach maturity.  The birth rate and death rate roughly cancel each other out.

By stage 2, improvements in medicine and agriculture (farming) mean that the death rate begins to fall.  People continue to have large families as they still need workers and they expect many of their children to die.  They might also lack the access to contraception. The  lack of rights of women in these societies may mean that they do not have control over their own fertility.

By stage 3, the economics of having children starts to change.  The introduction of public schooling means  that children become an economic cost rather than an asset. People also realise that most of their children are no surviving, and the cost of raising a family with many surviving children is high.  This is coupled with improvements in the education and rights of women.  More women chose to pursue education and careers and delay having children.  Contraception becomes more accessible to people and therefore more families control their fertility and limit their family size.

By state 4, birth rate and death rate are both low and cancel each other out once more.  Total population remains stable.

It is thought some counties, such as Japan are now entering stage 5.  An ageing population and difficulties for women taking career breaks to have children has mean that the birth rate has dropped below the death rate.  Japan’s population is therefor forecast to fall.

The different stages of the DTM can clear;y be seen in this example from the UK.



The demographic transition is therefore inextricably linked to economic development.  Economic developments are the driving force behind demographic change.  There is little hope therefore, of limiting population growth without economic development in Low Income Countries (LICs)

Hans Rosling explains the link further.

This leads us to the question “is the world heading for overpopulation?”.  This is a difficult question.  Thomas Malthus, a 19th century professor predicted that “positive checks” such as war and famine would limit world population and competition grew for resources.  Malthusians (supporters of Malthus) argue that famines and wars are a direct result of competition for limited resources.  Other others such as Rosling and Bosserup argue that human ingenuity can overcome technological problems and the world’s growing population can be supported.  Exponential growth of the population is expected to end at around the 10 billion mark.

Explain how the demographic transition is linked to economic development. (6 marks)

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