The Theory of Demographic Transition 5 Stages

The theory of Demographic Transition has multiple versions and it is also known as population stages or population cycle. Earlier it had 3 stages that were propounded by W.S. Thomson and F.W. Notestein. However, it is a 5 stage theory now. We come across a very famous term called ‘demographic dividend’. It is very important to know about the country’s death rate and the birth rate for our economy and society. The demographic transition theory is a cycle that starts with a decline in the death rate, then a perpetual phase of population growth and ends with a fall in the birth rate.

5 stages of Demographic Transition Theory:

  1. First stage: The stage includes a very high growth in death rates and birth rates. The status of a country is backward and the majority of the people live in countryside areas. The society is very simple with modest means of economic development. People are underdeveloped and backward and live in dirty surroundings. Facilities like banking, modern education, transport, commerce, etc. are not even at the initial stage of development. The birth rate is very high because people are not educated about population control methods. A family with more children is regarded as a prosperous family. Due to illiteracy, ignorance and various misconceptions, the birth rate is not in control. Due to more population but fewer resources, the availability of food is very low which causes a high death rate also. The population growth is almost in equilibrium. These economic and social factors are retarding the state of living standards.


  1. Second stage: After living in isolation and static state of the economy, now people start entering into the economic growth phase. Agriculture and industries start developing which leads to the development of the tertiary sector also. Basic facilities like food, cloth, and shelter are getting more and better. Both quantitative and qualitative aspects are taken into consideration. The modern medicinal techniques are helping in declining the death rate but the birth rate is more or less at the same pace. Due to more employment opportunities, people are not ready to reduce childbirth. Prevailing social customs and beliefs about childbirth are deep-rooted. Therefore, in this stage, the economy is getting adequate but with a population explosion.


  1. Third stage: After a large growth in the population now people start using various contraceptive methods for birth control. Birth rate declines with a more rapid decline in the death rate. Masses are unwilling to favor the concept of large families. Due to education, people living in urban areas become more active and learn about the difficulties of having more children. Now the population is growing but at a diminishing rate.


  1. Fourth stage: Once again the population has become sluggish. Previously we see that birth rate is declining but less than that of the death rate. But now both concepts are equally decreasing. Due to this, the standard of living rises with more economic and social developments. Superstitions are being rejected by the people and the nuclear family is a priority now. Sources of income become available but expenses of various facilities like health, education, transport, etc. also rise. Men and women indulge in several family planning schemes. Now the population is growing less comparatively.


  1. Fifth stage: In the fifth stage, the death rate is more than the birth rate. It results in low population growth. Such a situation is regarded as a matter of concern in any developed country.


This theory is not an only theory about the population cycle but it is the most accepted one. But there are many criticisms regarding it. The stages are not sequential and explanations about the decline birth rate vary from area to area. We cannot generalize this concept. The theory takes various economic and social factors but ignores many others. However, this theory is applicable in almost all European countries.


The Theory of Demographic Transition (With Criticisms)

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