The demographic transition model shows the (historical) shift in birth and death rates over time and the consequence population change. The DTM shows a broader categorisation by allocating countries in different stages.

The Demographic Transition Model, img by The Geo Room

Stage 1

This is the pre-industrial stage and no country is found in this stage today

However, some remote tribes and societies found within a country can be found in this stage

It is characterised by fluctuating birth and death rates, both of which are at their highest. Because of this population growth is very low.

Traditional customs and the need for field labour mainly causes high birth rates in this stage. On the other hand poor healthcare is the primary reason for a high death rate

Stage 2

The bulk of underdeveloped countries, especially in Africa, are found in this stage, e.g. Zimbabwe, Niger and Somalia. It is characterised by a falling death rate and high birth rate. Death rate decline is due to improved nutrition, health practices and health care services.

People are educated on good health practices which lowers the death rate. Conversely, birth rate remain high because of factors such as resistance, unemployment and literacy. People tend to listen and comply to ways that cause them to live longer than reducing births. Population growth shots sharply.

Stage 3

Stage 3 is characterised by a falling birth rate. People are obliged to reducing birth rates by contraceptive and family planning methods. Death rate continue to fall and population growing. NIC (new industrialised countries) such as India & Malaysia are found in this stage.

Improved employment career and literacy causes people to focus more on their growth rather than having kids.

Stage 4

Birth and Death rates remain low fluctuating steadily. Population growth slowly start to decline. Developed countries such as Japan, USA, Sweden, Argentina are found in this stage.

Cost of living and child expenses give more reasons to not having children.

Countries in Stage 4 already have a high population thus are not at high risk of under population.

Stage 5

This stage was projected to occur since the inception of the model. A low birth rate and high death rate causing population decline . Some countries such as France and Sweden are slowly shifting into this stage.

Resultant Population Pyramids in each stage

Limitations of the DTM

The model is intended to show how a country typically progresses over time. It just shows a broad overview of progress. However, because of the dynamics in terms of social, economic and political factors limitations arise

  • The DTM does not take into account migration which is a huge determinant of population growth.
  • It neglects varying factors within a country which influence birth and death rates. Natural disasters and pandemics such as Covid 19 can cause high death rates and the aftermath of wars can cause baby booms. These factors can cause an increase or decrease of the rate being studied in stages it’s supposed to fall or increase respectively.
  • Newly Industrialised Countries such as Malaysia and South Korea are advancing much faster than the early industailsed countries did causing the timescale of the model to be shortened. In less developed countries the advancement is and has been slow. Most LEDCs are still stuck in stage 2.
  • The model assumes that all countries must follow the stages sequentially which is not always true. For example, a pandemic, drought or wars can cause a surge in death rates while a country is in stage 3. This means the country may reverse in progress.
  • The sharp (rapid) decline in birth rate in stage 3 is not always as fast. Most countries (except where policies to decrease birth rate) show a slow decline in birth rate
  • Based on European countries and industrialisation.
  • Leaving out a Stage 5 which most developed countries are or transitioning into. Although not a limitation in itself during the time the model was introduced

Further reading of the limitations of demographic transition model

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