What Is Demographic Transition? – Definition & Stages

There are many differences between non-industrial and industrial countries. In this lesson, we will explore the concept of demographic transition and the stages that guide a country through its changes into an industrial country.

Demography

Take a minute and think about major cities in the United States. There are some regions of the U.S., such as the Northeast and Southwest, that have very large cities. On the other hand, there are areas of the U.S., such as the Midwest, that have much smaller cities. This example of uneven distribution would be a topic of demography, which is the study of the size, density, and distribution of the human population. This area of study takes into account birth rates, death rates, age distribution, and any other factors that influence the size and growth of a population.

What is Demographic Transition?

Over the course of human history, there have been many people who have been interested in the characteristics of the human population and the future of population growth. After analyzing how western populations have changed over time, one pattern was discovered that indicated there was a connection between population growth and the economic development of a country. It was observed that in countries with high standards of living, the population grew at a slow rate, while in countries with low standards of living, the population grew more rapidly.

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This discovery resulted in the creation of the concept of demographic transition, which is a series of stages that a country goes through when transitioning from non-industrial to industrial. The demographic transition concept involves four stages that are based on changes to population size and social behaviors.

Stages of Demographic Transition

Pre-Industrial Stage

The first stage of the demographic transition is the pre-industrial stage. During this stage, the population is stable, with both high birth rates and high death rates. The death rates are high because there is increased disease, minimal medical care, poor sanitation, and limited food supplies. As a result of the high death rate, people tend to produce more offspring to try to compensate for the mortality. Although the birth rate and death rate can fluctuate slightly, overall they remain equal, which results in zero population growth.

Transitional Stage

Following the pre-industrial stage is the transitional stage. During this stage, the human population begins to increase due to high birth rates and declining death rates. The death rates are decreasing because, as the country transitions into an industrial country, there are improvements in the economy and social conditions. These changes lead to the control of diseases, the production of more food, better jobs, and improved medical care and sanitation.

As the death rates decrease, the birth rates remain high because people are still accustomed to producing more children, and during this stage, they have more food and resources to support larger families. As a result of the declining death rates and high birth rates, the human population will increase at a rapid pace.

Industrial Stage

The third stage of the demographic transition is the industrial stage, which is characterized by an increasing population with declining birth rates and low death rates. The death rates remain stable and low during this stage due to the continuation of the economic and social changes that improved the standard of living during the previous stage. During this stage, the birth rates begin to decline for many reasons. For the most part, people realize that they no longer have to produce large numbers of offspring because the offspring they do produce have a higher chance of surviving to adulthood. Many people also start to prefer smaller families, where they can concentrate more resources on less people and increase overall livelihood.

The decline in birth rates also correlates with an increase in employment opportunities for women and the increased access to contraception. Although the birth rates are declining, the population continues to increase due to the low death rates and the momentum of the population from the previous stage. The high birth rates in the previous stage produced more overall people that will reach reproductive age, and even if they produce fewer offspring than previous generations, they are still adding to the population.

Post-Industrial Stage

Following the industrial stage is the final stage of the demographic transition. This stage is referred to as the post-industrial stage and is characterized by a stable human population, with both low birth rates and low death rates. The birth rates and death rates remain low due the economic and social changes of the previous stages. As the gap is closed between death rates and birth rates, the human population will stop increasing and remain at a stable level.

Lesson Summary

Now, let’s review demography, which is the study of the size, density, and distribution of the human population and the concept of demographic transition. Demographic transition is a series of stages that a country goes through when transitioning from non-industrial to industrial. The concept is used to explain how population growth and economic development of a country are connected.

The concept of demographic transition has four stages, including the pre-industrial stage, the transition stage, the industrial stage, and the post-industrial stage. The pre-industrial stage is characterized by a stable population, with high death rates, due to low standard of living, and high birth rates due to the need to compensate for deaths. The second stage is the transition stage, which is when the population begins to increase due to continued high birth rates and declining death rates as a result of an increase in the standard of living. The industrial stage follows and is characterized by continued population increase despite the declining birth rates and low death rates, which result from increased standard of living and changes in social views. The final stage is the post-industrial stage, which is when the human population stabilizes, due to low birth rates and low death rates.

The concept of demographic transition is a good predictor of how a county will change both in population size and socially as it transitions from non-industrial to industrial. Although the concept has proven true in many western countries over the years, it is only a model and cannot absolutely determine how countries will respond to future changes.

Learning Outcomes

After you have finished watching this lesson, you could be able to:

  • Discuss the demography of the United States
  • Interpret the model of demographic transition
  • Enumerate the four stages of this model
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