The Neo-Malthusian Theory of population studies

According to Neo-Malthusians, population problem a it presently exists in underdeveloped counties is an inevitable result of the reproductive behaviors of man.

Environment, Law, and History: April 2014

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According to Neo-Malthusians, population problem a it presently exists in underdeveloped counties is an inevitable result of the reproductive behaviors of man. The theory of demographic transition, however, rejects this view and asserts that the population explosion implying a sudden spurt in the rate of population in the rate of population growth is transitory phenomenon that occurs in the second stage of demographic transition due to a rapid fall in the mortality rare without corresponding fall in the birth rate. According to the theory of demographic transition, every country passes through these stages of demographic transition. These stages are empirically verifiable. In the first stage, both birth and death rates are high. Hence, the population remains more or less stable, even if there is some increase in population because birth rate is somewhat higher than deaths rate, it does not pose any serious problem. Generally, in backward economics where agriculture is the main occupation of the people, per capita incomes are low. This inevitably results in low level of standard of living. Mass of population in these countries is deprived of even the basic necessities of life. A large number of people live on inadequate and unbalanced diet, their housing conditions are appalling and in the absence of opportunities of education their outlook towards life becomes unscientific and irrational. Under the circumstances, when medical facilities are limited the mortality rate is bound to to be high. Lack of education, superstitions and such other social evils results in high birth rates. In an agrarian economy certain economic factors also induce people to have more children.

To Coal and Hoover, these beliefs and customs are reinforced by the economic advantages to a peasant family of large number of births. The burden of child care rests primarily on the women in a pleasant society and the costs of educating children are minimal because of the level of education given. Children contribute at an early age to agrarian production and are a traditional source of scrutiny in the old age of parents. Furthermore, the people are generally indifferent to family planning. They have neither the desire nor necessary information to restrict the size of family. Hence, birth rate remains high in the first stage of demographic transition high birth rate is matched by an equally high death rate and thus, population remains stable over a long period.


The second stage of demographic transition is characterized by rapid growth of population. With the beginning of the process of development, the living standards  of the people improve, the education expands medical and health facilities increase and governments make special efforts to check small-pox, malaria, cholera, plague etc. These developments generally bring down the death rate. But as long as society primarily agrarian and the education remains confined to a narrow section of the society, attitude of the people towards the size on the family does not change radically and the birth rate remains high. In this situation population increase at am alarming rate. In the second stage, if demographic transition, the birth rate generally stays around 35 to 40 per thousand, whereas the death rate comes down to roughly 15 per thousand. Consequently, population increases at a an annual rate about 20 per cent or more. In a country, where economy has not grown adequately for a long time and sizeable sections of population has remained below the poverty line. This really a grave situation. Economists call it population explosion. For the past four decades, India’s experience is respect of population growth has been precisely as described above.

In the third sage of demographic transition, the birth rate declines significantly and thus the rate of population growth remains low. A country can hope to overcome the problem of population growth problem and explosion if the process of industrialization accompanied by urbanization is fast and education becomes widespread. Only in this situation birth rate shows a tendency to fall. Life in a city is not the same as in a village. Industrialization results in overcrowding in cities and the house problem compels people to revise their attitudes towards the size of family. Their experiences of the urban life help them in recognizing the merits of a small family. Education undermines the influences of customs and religion and in the course of time scientific enquiry replaces faith in social life. This reinforces people’s desire to have smaller families. When the process of economic development gets accelerated women seek all kinds of employment in order to supplement family earnings. For working women upbringing of children is no as easy task. Furthermore, in industrial science there are very few employment opportunities for children. In these societies, there are very economically a child remains dependent on the family until he compels his education. In most cases, some technical training is also necessary along with general education. Thus, both social and economic factors a large number of people from having many children and in course of time, the birth rate declines from about 40 per thousand to about 20 per thousand. Once this happen in a country its population problem is solved once for all and the critical phase of population explosion is over.

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