Demographic transition: theory of population dynamics
As people or a society transitions
from traditional to modern, traditional gender or
family roles + high
birth rates continue for a generation or more, creating a youth-heavy population
in line to multiply further.
1. Traditional cultures with
high birth rates counter-balanced by high infant mortality & short lifespans => population replaces
2. Modernizing cultures overproduce for profit
and reinvestment. Experience with improved
nutrition and hygiene, lower infant mortality and longer lifespans, and higher
standards of living lead to
education and vocational opportunities for women, along with access to birth control.
As families rise to middle-class status,
they begin to control births, intensify education,
opportunity, living standards for 2-3 children (a.k.a. "hothousing").
Religion can influence birthrates--viz. the
"Quiverfull" movement among homeschooling white evangelicals in USA,
Televangelists' and cultural conservatives warning against "white genocide" (Pat
Robertson), or attributions of high Mexican American birthrates to
Catholicism--but middle class status usually neutralizes.
(For instance, a born-again couple down my suburban block has
a vanful of children, but b/w their house and mine is a gay couple that rescues
dogs, a NASA worker and tech wife with 1 child, and my house same as next door.
Next door on the other side is a second-generation Mexican American family with
two children and up from them a born-again couple with one child.)
After transition to modern, low birth-rates + longer
lifespan > age-heavy population,
post-reproductivity, not enough children to support medical needs of elders?
(Aging white demographic)
Preparing for the Twenty-First Century (1993)
12 The real differences [between our time and the first demographic and
technological revolution] are not in the nature of our global problems, but in
their greater intensity now compared with the late eighteenth century [when
Europe felt the problem].
The earth again confronts a
population explosion, not in the developed societies of northwestern Europe
[where the first revolution took place] but in the poverty-stricken regions of
Africa, Central America, the Middle East, India, and China, involving
billions rather than millions of people.
At the same time, we are witnessing a
knowledge explosion in an
extraordinary number of fields of technology and production.
In both respects, the impact is larger, and much more swiftly and widely
In the eighteenth century, the global
population was adding another quarter of a billion people every seventy-five
years; today, such an increase occurs every three years.
Meanwhile, our integrated world of science and communications has
immensely quickened the pace of technological change.
Although few, if any, of our political leaders appear willing to face the
fact, the greatest test for human society as it confronts the twenty-first
century is how to use "the power of technology" to meet the demands thrown up by
"the power of population" . . . .
between demography and technology—will
affect some societies and classes more
than others . . . .
1825, as [Thomas]
Malthus was making the final
amendments to his original
Essay on Population, about
1 billion human beings occupied the planet, the race having
taken thousands of years to reach
By then, however,
industrialization and modern medicine were permitting population to rise at an
increasingly faster rate.
In the following hundred years the
world's population doubled to 2 billion, and in the following half century (from
1925 to 1976) it doubled again, to 4 billion.
By 1990, the figure had advanced to 5.3 billion.
It is true that the increase has slowed in recent decades, because
overall fertility rates are decreasing in many countries.
Even among today's fast-expanding populations of the developing world,
demographers expect average family sizes to decline in the future, as
urbanization and other factors cause a demographic transition and numbers begin
But that is decades
away—even if those forecasts are correct—and since the globe's
enlarging population continues to beget more people than those who die, the
effect is like a giant supertanker at sea
beginning to slow down.
decelerates, it still has a considerable way to go before it stops. . . .
Why are the populations of certain countries growing so fast?
The simple answer is that they are now in the same position as England
and France were in Malthus's time—that is, they are basically agrarian
societies in their first generation of enjoying a significant decrease in
25 The irony is that this population explosion is
chiefly the result of Western health practices, especially immunization
and antibiotics . . . .
perfectly natural wish to cut infant mortality in the developing world has
resulted in today's unintended consequences . . . .
In the poorest and fastest-growing continent of all,
Africa, which now contains about
650 million people, the total is forecast
to increase almost threefold, to 1.58 billion, by 2025.
Nigeria could expand from 113 to 301 million, Kenya from 25 to 77
million, Tanzania from 27 to 84 million, Zaire from 36 to 99 million,
without corresponding increases in
resources—indeed, with resources shrinking.
Reasons why human population keeps growing
1. Evolutionary dynamics: a biological species succeeds by increasing,
crowding out or exploiting other species.
2. Humans are programmed to love children.
3. If human societies default to war, the military needs bodies.
4. It takes a lot of poor people to support a rich person. (If human values
are based on the profit motive, a continuously expanding market is necessary for
continuously growing profits.)
5. Patriarchal religions require many offspring "made in his image." The
more fundamentalist the religion, the higher the birthrates.
Application to Colonial-Postcolonial History
this is based on wide reading rather than concentrated study; therefore subject to prejudicial assumptions.
Refinements planned for
1500s-early 1900s: European
colonization of non-European or Developing World
modernizes from subsistence economy with high mortality rates &
replacement-level population dynamics (cultures mostly rural and traditional w/
identities strongly determined by family, gender)
urban, industrial, surplus economy w/ decreasing mortality rates and exponential
population dynamics due to better nutrition, sanitation, medicine.
European population migrates heavily to Americas and Australia, less heavily
(but still significantly) to Africa, Asia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands.
Third World /
colonized world remains mostly in subsistence economy, but in contact with
modernity, population increases especially through modern medicine and hygiene.
Twentieth Century, esp. 1940s-1960s: postcolonial or decolonizing period
mortality falls in developing world. Population dynamics for colonizers? Armies
were all-male. Administrators were often married and had children, but
middle-class status may have precluded numerous offspring. Outside of settler
colonies (e.g., USA, Canada, Australia, where indigenous populations were
decimated by European epidemics and collapse of indigenous economies),
colonizing peoples must have felt increasingly outnumbered.
black-majority revolutions over white administrative colonization: Caribbean
states like Jamaica; South Africa, where apartheid repressed growing black power
Transnational Migration, 1960s-present
current First World population dynamics
world's highest standards of living, the First World's former colonial powers
enter steady declines in birthrates and lifespan extensions. Italy and Japan
usually compete for the lowest birthrates in the world. The base population of
the USA operates at replacement levels except for immigration, which not only
adds more numbers but brings people from traditional cultures who favor higher
birthrates. (One measure of socio-economic class in USA is "age at first
birth"—the higher the age, the higher the class.)
their children in First-World nations may be upper-middle-class professionals,
but many more serve as a source of labor, especially in service niches that care
for aging First-Worlders. Otherwise, traditional industrial employment such as
"line-workers" is farmed out to poorer, non-unionized regions of the United
States and to underdeveloped nations, or is otherwise reduced by technological
progress, which eliminates mid-level workers.
nations are increasingly "gray," top-heavy in age, with populations straining
the safety net of social welfare states. An argument in favor of US immigration is
that youthful immigrants support Social Security for aging white Americans who
have only 1 or 2 children who don't intend to support their elders as in a
population has so far been essential to capitalism's insatiable need for new and growing
markets. However, except at the very top of capitalist societies (the Kennedys,
Romneys, Waltons, Perots), most of the First World limits child-bearing for a
number of reasons.
Developing World & Transnational Migrant population dynamics
World is the source of most population growth. In contrast to the First World,
the Third World is youthful and bottom-heavy, creating high demands for
increased education and employment.
In terms of
population dynamics, the Developing World finds itself in a similar profile as
the First World in previous centuries: more children are born than can find
employment, land, opportunity in their native countries.
just as the First World formerly sent its excess population to the colonies, the
former colonies now send their excess population to the former colonizing
national population has doubled in my lifetime, from 3.5 billion in 1950 to 7
billion in 2011.
USA in 1950 > 308,000,000 USA in 2010)
population is projected to grow to 10 billion by 2100, but projections vary and
conditions might change.
sustainable "carrying capacity" of Earth is estimated between 1.5 and 5 billion.
'The world’s population is seven billion and counting. “Whether the stable
population will be 1.5 billion or 5 billion,” he said to me, “the question is:
How do we get there?”' (Carlo Rotella, "Can
Jeremy Grantham [investor] Profit From Ecological Mayhem?
New York Times 11 August 2011
solution: rising standard of living represses reproduction (but
so far a rising standard of living requires growing markets; i.e., it takes
a lot of poor people to make a rich person)
and improved status for women: women in developing world limit births when
their status and education rises +
Census count finds decreasing white
population in 15 states
By Carol Morello,
Washington Post, 29 September 2011
[Instructor's note: This article shifts
from class to race but applies to Demographic Transition if whites are
regarded as dominant culture.]
Non-Hispanic whites are a dwindling share of the U.S.
population, with their numbers dropping in the Northeast and Midwest and
growing only modestly in the South and West, the Census Bureau said
Whites declined in 15 states, almost all in the
industrial and farming states from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania,
and from Kansas to Ohio. They also declined in California and three Southern
states, including Maryland.
A Census Bureau analysis of the 2010 count showed that the
number of non-Hispanic whites rose over the decade from 194.5 million to
197 million, but the 1.2 percent growth rate fell far short of the
national increase of 9.7 percent. Non-Hispanic whites are
now 64 percent of the population, down from 69 percent a decade ago.
The census also reported that the black population grew by
12 percent. African Americans now make up almost 13 percent of the
population, a small increase over the decade. More than half, 57 percent,
live in the South, up from 55 percent a decade ago. And six out of 10 blacks
live in 10 states, including Virginia and Maryland.
The census analysis of the nation’s white and black
population underscores the transformative nature of growth in the
21st century. The number of Hispanics and Asians is soaring, the number of
blacks is growing slowly and whites are almost at a standstill.
Hispanics are an ethnic group of people who can be
of any race. Most Hispanics identified themselves as white. The
number of whites who indicated for the census that they are Hispanic
increased by 56 percent.
Whites who are not Hispanic are getting older on
average, and have low birthrates that, when coupled with the high
birthrates of Hispanics and Asians, make whites a smaller share of the
population with every census count.
Even when Hispanics are included, the percentage of whites
in the total population still declined over the past decade, from 75 percent
to 72 percent.
Whites increasingly are gravitating to the South and the
West. The white population grew by 4 percent in the South and 3 percent in
the West over the decade. But it dropped by more than 1 million people, or
3 percent, in the Northeast and by 300,000 people in the Midwest, less than
Some states experienced outsize growth in the white
population. The number rose by 10 percent or more in Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho,
Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming.
The decade also witnessed a large increase in the
number of people who identified themselves as multiracial.
Every state saw its multiple-race population jump by at
least 8 percent, and some of the largest increases were in the South. The
number of multiracial people more than doubled in the Carolinas and came
close to doubling in Georgia and Delaware. Nine of the 10 states with the
biggest increases were Southern states.
The number of people who said they were white and black
more than doubled and was the most common combination.
New York Times 22 October 2011