Demographic Transition Theory
Some scholars who disagree with the neo-Malthusian viewpoint suggest that the theory of demographic transition offers a more accurate picture of future population growth. Demographic tra7lsitioll is the process by which some societies have moved (rom high birth and death rates to relatively low birth and death rates as a result of technological development. emographic transition is linked to four stages of economic development (see ~ Figure 19.3): • Stage 1: Preindustrial societies. Little population growth occurs because high birth rates arc offset hy high death rates. Food shortages, poor sanitation, and lack of adequate medical care contribute to
high rates of infant and child mortality. • Stage 2: Early industrialization, Significant population growth occurs because birth rates are relatively high whereas death rates decline. Improvements in health, sanitation, and nutrition produce a substantial
decline in infant mortality rates. Overpopulation is likely tu occur because more people are alive than the society has rhe ability to support. St.Jgc 3: Advanced industrialization alld urbanization. Very little population growth occurs hecause
both birth rates and death rates are low. The birth rate declines as couples control their fertility through cqntraccpnves and become less likely to adhere to rdigious directives against their usc. Children art’ not viewed as an economic asset; they
consume income rather than produce it. Societies in this stage attain zero population growth, but the actual number of births per year may still rise due to an increased number of women of childbearing age.
Rates continue to decline as more women gain full-time employment and the cost of raising children continues to increase. The population grows very slowly, if at all,
because the decrease in birth rates is coupled with a stable death rate. Debate continues as to whether this evolutionary model accurately explains the stages of population growth in all societies, Advocates note that demographic transition theory highlights the relationship between technological development and population growth, thus making Malthus’s predictions obsolete. Scholars also point out that demographic transitions occur at a faster rate in now-low-income nations than they previously did in the nations that are already developed.For example, nations in the process of development haw higher birth rates and death rates than
the now-developed societies did when they were going through the transition. The death rates declined in the now-developed nations as a result of internal economic
development-not. as is the case today, through improved methods of disease control (Weeks, 2(08). Critics suggest that this theory best explains development in Western societies.