Population & Resources

Population & Resources: Malthus & Boserup Theories & Criticism

Denver Kunaka Last edited:November 11, 2020

Table of Contents

Population and Resources
An occurrence were Population and demand outnumbers and outstrips food supply and resources.
An occurrence were food supply and resources outnumbers and outstrips the population.
Optimum Population
The given population matches and meet the given resources

In 1798 Robert Malthus a British priest put forth a theory which explained that a population grows geometrically while food supply increases arithmetically.

In simple words, population increases times 2 while food supply increases by one. Unless control measures (positive checks) are in place to reduce population and meet food supply, an overpopulation crisis is experienced.


According to Malthus, positive/ natural checks (a.k.a things that make people die) are those occurrences that keep a population in line with the resources. Conversely, negative checks are those applied by humans to keep the population at an optimum level.

Positive Checks/ Natural checks Negative/ Preventive Checks
Famines Contraceptions
Drought Family planning
Endemics/ Pandemics Sterilisation
Wars Late marriages
Natural hazards Abstinence


Anti-Malthusians challenged and criticised Malthus’s views. Some of the criticism include:

  • Malthus failed to foresee the great technological advancement (e.g Green Revolution) in food production and supply in the future.
  • Food supply has doubled and risen more than the population in most countries especially developed ones.
  • His main base was on land and agriculture to provide food, however, globalisation and trade in the form of other commodities such as minerals has provided more food imports and supply. For example, in the past, UK managed to sustain its food reserves by exporting processed goods and then import food supplies.
  • He assumed food deficit for the entire population whereas in actual fact it is the poor that goes hungry more.
  • No actual calculations on the exponential growth of a population.

However, Malthus views can be seen in some underdeveloped nations such as India, Bangladesh and some African countries such as Somalia. These countries has seen food shortages due to rapid population increase (India) and positive checks such as wars, diseases and famines (Somalia) lessen the population to meet food supply.


Esther Boserup, an anti-Multhisian, came up with another theory on population and resources. Boserup argued that an increase in the population and the demand for food would see great innovations and advancement (Necessity is the mother of invention). Unlike Malthus, the population continues to increase unchecked and resources present.

Boserup’s conclusions came from experiments on various land uses from extensive farming methods to more intensive cropping methods. She observed that new methods and innovations arose as a population grows and demand for farming intensifies and moves into higher stages.


  • Intense use of land leads to undesirable land degradation such as desertification and soil erosion which renders land useless.
  • An increase in population doesn’t always result in innovations and advancement.
  • Her theory remains unproved

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About Author

Denver is a Geographer, Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Blogger & Digital Marketer. He has come to know that everyday there's something new to learn :-)