Models of Demographic Study in Geography

In this article, we are going to study the various models of demographic or population study in geography.

What is Population Geography?

It is the field of human geography that takes into reference growth and distribution of human population, along with the recognition of valuable demographic attributes.

This study includes both theoretical and practical profiles. However, in this article we are just going to focus on the theoretical aspects.

Table of Contents
  • Malthusian Approach
  • Marxian approach
  • Demographic Transition Model (Vital Revolution)

In theoretical category of population geography, we have three models/approaches:

  • Malthusian approach
  • Marxian approach
  • Demographic Transition model

Malthusian Approach

English demographer and economist, Robert Thomas Malthus, propounded the first concept on demography in late 18th century. He highlighted the urgency of controlling the growth rates of population. His approach was based on population projection, where the idea of population growth surpassing the resource base in due cause of time was incorporated.

Malthus developed his concept by recognizing two universal laws that regulate human course of living in global perspective:

  • Persisting passion between the sexes
  • Food required for survival

Persisting passion between the sexes

Malthus outlined that persisting passion between the sexes form the cause of early marriages resulting into maximization of the reproductive age in the marital bondage, which in turn co-relates to the possibility of larger number of births.

Highlighting the capacity of controlling the birth rate in the human possession, Malthus mentions preventive checks. These checks included:

  • Delaying the marriage
  • Moral restrain
  • Abortions

In spite of the prevalence of preventive checks, as per him, practical application of this is justified to be minimal.

In accordance, the uncontrolled population growth registers geometric rate of growth, while in comparison means of life supports (or means of subsistence) register the growth at arithmetic rate. This mismatch between demand and supply of basic resources will cause division of society.

Food required for survival

In reference to this division of society, in due course of time excessive pressure on means of subsistence will mark the application of second law, i.e. food required for survival.

In the absence of availability of food and deprived living conditions, nature induced positive check will ruthlessly balance population with resource base. This category of checks includes:

  • Starvation
  • Epidemics
  • Natural Calamity
  • Resource Induced Wars

Positives of Malthusian Approach

  • This simple descriptive approach of Malthus is identified to be the first attempt in social sciences towards theory building. Moreover, it was the first to recognize the urgency of controlling the population growth.
  • In more practical terms, it is Malthusian ideology of delaying legal age of marriage that has been adopted in population policies of many countries.

Criticisms of Malthusian Approach

  • This approach is criticized as it makes use of extreme generalizations. Sociologists criticize this theory, as it completely fails to recognize the differences between biological requirements and sociological requirements, by treating persisting passion between the sexes and child birth as synonyms.
  • Another magnitude of generalization is the lack of recognition of the biological limit of fertility.
  • The concept of different rates of growth of population and means of subsistence, as predicted by this theory, has also been discarded. Practically, since 1950 booming growth in global population has been simultaneous to growth in the resource base, economic capacities and thus the carrying capacity of the earth. In accordance, human geographers now largely follow Neo-Malthusian Ideology, which recognizes the urgency of controlling the population growth, but also gives recognition to the technological capacity and related growth of resource base.
  • One of the strongest critics of Malthusian ideology was Karl Marx. He strongly retaliated against the conclusion dawn by the scholar that uncontrolled growth of population leads to the division of society. As per Marx, societal division is caused only by the evils of capitalism.

That takes us to the second model of population geography - Marxian approach.

Marxian approach

Karl Marx in presenting his ideas on pro-socialism and anti-capitalism, presented some view points on demography, specifically population growth. At the core of these ideas was a retaliation to Malthusian conclusions in regards to the causes of division of society.

Marx in his approach outlined that it is the capitalist setup that forms the cause of division of society into Rich & Poor category.

  • Rich: These are the people that not just possess the means of production, and thereby are the controller of entire range of profit (i.e. the difference between the input costs and sales revenue). The rich category also has the complete capacity to control the wage savings, which minimizes the cost of production, increases the assets of rich, and degrades the economic condition of the poor.
  • Poor: These are the people of the work force, that in spite of spending major time in the production process, are not been provided with fair possibilities of economic momentum.

It is this divide of the society that justifies rich to be multiplying the assets they possess (that is capital), and poor to be multiplying the assets they possess (that is population).

It is the multiplication of population, based on the belief that the addition of work force will increase the wage level per household, that not just causes increase in the population of the region, but also further degrades the living conditions of the poor.

As per Marx therefore, when the cause of population growth is economic condition, its control will also be relating to the change in economic setup. The economic setup highlighted by him is socialist setup, where the focal point of administration is to ensure optimum distribution of resource base and growth benefits.

Demographic Transition Model (Vital Revolution)

This demographic model, which is also called DTM or Vital revolution, was originally propounded by Thompson (1929) and Notestein (1945).

The model was based on 3 fundamental assumptions:

  • Fertility and mortality rates register transition from high to low levels.
  • This transition relates to the temporal gap between the decline of mortality and fertility.
  • This transition is simultaneous to the transition in socio-economic and cultural parameters as well.

In its original frame, demographic transition was divided into 3 prominent parts: Stagal Transition, Causative Components, Predictive Elements.

However, in its present profile predictive elements have been included in the stagal transition. So, now this model has two parts:

  • Stagal Transition
  • Causative Components

It is work of Peter Haggett that is most referred in inducing the modification to the original model. Now, let’s study these two components of this model.

Stagal Transition

Stage I: High Stationary (Early European)

This stage of demographic transition is characterized with high rate of fertility with fluctuating high rate of mortality.

The fluctuation in mortality rate reveals the randomness of the prevalence of infant mortality and life expectancy. As the high birth rate is more or less balanced with high death rate, total population remains stationary. This stage is currently identified to be applicable to most of the fourth world communities.

Stage-II: Early Expanding Stage (Industrial European)

This stage of demographic transition reveals the beginning of decline in crude death rate (number of deaths per thousand population per year). However, the crude birth rate (number of live births per thousand population per year) remains high. So, this stage is characterized with the beginning of the growth of the population.

This early expanding state is being experienced by most of the African countries, as the crude birth rate in these countries is specified to be more than 40 live birth / 1000 per year (Global average being 20 live birth/1000 per year).

In case of countries like Niger and Somalia, crude birth rate is at the level of 49, as is the case with some Asian countries like Afghanistan and Yemen.

In the reference of fluctuating variation in crude death rate, the demographic status of these countries is analyzed in reference to total fertility rate (average number of children given birth to by the females in their reproductive age). Measured in reference to mortality rate, it is applied to identify replacement level of population, which is between 2.1 and 2.5.

For most of the African countries and some Asian countries mentioned above, total fertility rate is more than 4.5, showcasing exponential growth of population.

Stage-III: Late Expanding Stage (Modern European)

This stage is characterized with societal, cultural and economic transition, paving way to taming of fertility level. With the beginning of decline in the fertility level, decreasing gap between fertility and mortality marks the taming up of growth rate of population, though the total population continue to increase.

This stage is experienced by most of the Asian and Latin American countries, including the African nations Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and South Africa. In all these regions, the crude birth rate is in the range of 20-40 live births, and total fertility rate reveals the range of 2.5 – 4.1, denoting growth with stability.

Stage-IV: Low Stationary

This stage of transition is identified with declining fertility, representing balancing profile to low mortality. In accordance, the population growth rate is significantly tamed, leading to stable or near stable total population.

This stage is identified to be experienced in Anglo-America, Australia, New Zealand and successful anticatalyst developing countries that have fast forwarded their demographic cycle – China, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Uruguay form the prominent examples.

For all the constituents of this stage, total fertility rate is at or near replacement level and crude birth rate is less than 20 live births.

Stage V: Declining Stage

This stage of demographic transition reveals dipping fertility rate, below mortality rate, marking the beginning of decline of population.

The total fertility rate for most of European countries is below replacement level, justifying the strong threat of depopulation in likely future.

Causative Components

The application of transition model favorably facilitates the understanding of fertility and mortality patterns, and thus the total population profile in the global perspective.

Importance of this model also relates to the interpretation of causative components, that explain the causes for different countries of the world experiencing different stages of demographic transition. Let’s see some of these causative components.

Economic development

This analysis can be co-related to the nature of development of economic parameters, with less developed countries representing poorer demographic attributes and more developed countries representing better demographic attributes. This is collaborated by U.N., which considers development to be the best contraception.

Cultural differences

Another dimension of causative element relates to the work of Trewartha, who has identified dual characteristics of man, wherein biologically man is same in the global profile engaged in the reproductive process. But culturally the difference persisting in the global profile forms the regulator of fertility pattern. That’s why different regions of the world are experiencing different stages of transition.

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