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Explaining Economic Geography
Demographic Tranisition Model

The Demographic Transition Model to include a consideration of the fifth stage. The usefulness and application of the model in both an MEDW and LEDW context.

The demographic transition model illustrates the stages from which a country with high birth and death rates transform into a country with low birth and death rates. The model, based on population stages in several industrialised countries in western Europe and North America, suggests that all countries pass through similar demographic transition stages or population cycles or will do given time. This usually occurs along a series of stages. EMDCs have already gone through this phase since the advent of the Industrial Revolution while ELDCs have begun the stage much later or are still in the process of undergoing this stage.

Crude Birth Rates and Crude Death Rates

The Demographic Transition Model is based on the changes seen in the birth and death rates (per 1000) over time and relating them to the overall population change. Usually taking the number of births in one year and dividing it by the number of deaths and then multiplying it by 1000 calculate the figures. EMDCs have a lesser CBR and CDR compared to ELDCs.

Usually the birth rate and the death rate mirror each other in relation to the stage of development of that particular country. However, this trend can be influenced by particular dramatic events such a natural hazards, wars and disease. The first stage is illustrated by high death and birth rates and symbolise a country in its premature phase.

The second stage represents a decline in rates and this is as a response to improving countries or the improving development stage of a particular area. Over time children became an added expense and were less able to contribute to the wealth of a family and along with advances in birth control the birth rate was reduced. Populations grew but not near the level as would occur in stage one.

Stage three is mostly associated with developed countries. The birth and death rates are low although the CBR still continues to outnumber the CDR.

The Model

Like all models, the demographic transition model has its limitations. The model fails to account for other factors such as migration that is a major influence on the patterns of population distribution. Immigration accounts for much of the numbers of population growth in EMDCs.

The model does not identify that, in some western countries (Sweden and Germany), the birth rate as fallen below the death rate. This has actually caused a population decline and is often referred to as the fifth stage in the transition model.

The model does not also provide guidelines stating how long a country is to progress to the next stage. Some countries took centuries such as France whilst the Tiger countries of Asia literally transformed within a matter of decades. The model also avoids acknowledging that some countries in earlier stages do have low birth rates that are enforced through religion of government as in the case of Chinas 20th Century One child policy. Additionally, because the model is Eurocentric it fails to recognise that some countries in the developing world may fail to even pass through all of the stages outlined in the table.

The model assumed that the fall in the death rate in Stage 2 was the consequence of industrialisation. Initially the death rate in many British cities rose, due to the insanitary conditions that resulted from rapid urban growth, and it only began to fall after advances were made in medicine. The delayed fall in the death rate in many developing countries has been due mainly to their inability to afford medical facilities. In many countries, the fall in the birth rate in stage 3 has been less rapid than the model suggests due to religious and/or political opposition to birth control (Brazil), whereas the fall was much more rapid, and came earlier, in china following the government-introduced one-child policy.

Therefore, it does have its uses however it is also limited in its practicalities because of the aforementioned factors. The model can be used to show how the population growth of a country changes over a period of time and to compare rates of growth between different countries at a given point of time.
Optimistic and Pessimistic population growth

What are the problems of overpopulation and underpopulation, and what measures can we take to prevent them from happening?

An area is said to be overpopulated when there are too many people for the available resources. An area can be underpopulated when there are surplus resources. Under population does not pose much of a problem, except that on a small scale it may mean there are fewer services for the resident population as there is not the demand for a wider range of services. Canada in the mid-1980s was viewed as underpopulated as it was estimated it could more the double its population rapidly and still maintain the same standards of living.

Indeed, if an area is underpopulated, the residents are able to export their surplus energy and food resources and can make a significant profit, which helps to raise their standard of living still further.

Overpopulation poses much greater potential problems. This means there are too many people relative to the food, resources and local technology available in order to maintain an adequate standard of living. Examples are countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia and parts of India. They are characterised by problems such as famine, drought, natural disasters, insufficient food and energy supplies, poverty, poor living conditions and low incomes.

Several countries have taken steps to reduce the problems caused by overpopulation. Indonesia for example, has implemented its "transmigration" policy where people were given support to move away from the overcrowded core areas (like Jakarta) and were encouraged to move to the peripheral areas.

Other countries have implemented population control policies in an attempt to reduce their birth rate, their dependency ratio and ultimately, the total number of their population. Examples are countries like Singapore and Chinas infamous "one child policy". You will easily be able to find details of these policies! Other countries have taken a different approach to Chinas very controlling policy and in Kerala, a state in Southern India, women are given more control, more choices and opportunities and the birth rate here has been decreased quite successfully.

In carrying out additional research you may also want to investigate the idea of the carrying capacity of the environment and theories related to population such as Malthus.