demographic transition

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Fig. 42 Demographic transition. The levelling-off of the rate of population growth during a country's economic development.

demographic transition

a POPULATION cycle that is associated with the ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT of a country. In underdeveloped countries (i.e. subsistence agrarian economies), BIRTH RATES and DEATH RATES are both high, so there is very little change in the overall size of the population. With economic development (i.e. INDUSTRIALIZATION), INCOME PER HEAD begins to rise and there is a fall in the DEATH RATE (through better nutrition, sanitation, medical care, etc.), which brings about a period of rapid population growth. Provided ECONOMIC GROWTH is consistently greater than the increase in population, income per head continues to expand and eventually serves to reduce the BIRTH RATE (small families become the ‘norm’ in society as people seek to preserve their growing affluence). At this point, population growth slows down and may eventually level off.

Most advanced industrial countries have gone through a demographic transition of the kind described above and are today characterized by both low birth and death rates and slow-growing populations. See POPULATION TRAP, DEVELOPING COUNTRY.

Collins Dictionary of Economics, 4th ed. © C. Pass, B. Lowes, L. Davies 2005
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