Demographic Theories

Meaning of Demographic Theories

Demographic growth, since more remote times, has always been the subject of debates and reflections, always establishing a discussion between the availability of resources, number of inhabitants and socioeconomic development, see below the main demographic theories .

1. The Malthusian Theory

Thomas Robert Malthus was the name of a British pastor and economist, creator of the first great postulate on population growth and its possible consequences.

In the 18th century, he wrote Essays on the principles of the population, in two volumes, in which he expressed his enormous concern about the accelerated demographic growth and its harmful consequences for society.

According to Malthus’s demographic theory, if there were no wars or epidemics, the world population would double, on average, every 25 years, this means that the population would follow the rhythm of a geometric progression . At the same time, food production would not follow the same pattern, precisely because it has a limitation: the availability of land. This means that it would grow according to an arithmetic progression .

According to his prediction, there would be a time when the lack of land to grow food for an increasingly large population would bring hunger, malnutrition, pests and epidemics, forcibly reducing the number of inhabitants so that there was again a balance between the availability of food. land and population.

Malthus, due to his religious background, proposed that families should only have children if they had land to support them and that sex, between husband and wife, should only be carried out with the intention of procreating.

It is evident that this postulate took into account the socio-cultural conditions of 18th century England, when the pace of demographic growth was high and the countryside had not yet been modernized. With industrial development, rural areas started to produce more with less labor and cities caused more and more changes in the behavior of society; among them family planning.

Therefore, the forecast of a doubling of the population every 25 years has not been confirmed, and neither has the lack of food due to the lack of space for cultivation, since the technology applied to agricultural production has considerably increased the production of food.

2. The Neomalthusian Theory

Long after the Malthusian demographic theory, already in the 20th century, the world was struggling with the two great world wars. At the end of the Second World War, as a result of the agreements between the allied countries, the UN (United Nations Organization) emerged.

Its main goal was to avoid new conflicts like the one that had just happened and for that it was necessary to minimize the brutal differences between countries in the economic and social planes.

The big problem became the justification that could be given for the vast majority of the world population to live in subhuman conditions and especially what could be done to address this situation.

It was in this context that the Neomalthusian Thesis spread, trying to explain the occurrence of technological, economic and social backwardness in the set of poor countries. Through it, the Neomalthusians said that, in underdeveloped countries, the main factor responsible for the demographic explosion was the excessive demographic growth, since the large number of young people requires large investments in health and education from their countries, without having a counterpart in production. , as it is, theoretically, an inactive population. At the same time, there would be a lack of resources for investments in productive sectors such as agriculture, livestock and industry.

Another argument used by them is that the larger the population in a country, the lower the per capita income , which would prevent an improvement in the standard of living of its inhabitants. The name referring to Malthus is justified by the fact that both point to demographic growth as the cause of misery and poverty. Therefore, it is an anti-Natal demographic theory.

3. The Reformist Theory

In response to the Neomalthusian Theory, some scholars from the underdeveloped world created a theory called the Reformist , for proposing just the opposite of what the Neomalthusians proposed.

Reformists say that high population growth is a consequence and not a cause of underdevelopment. In these countries, the lack of investments in the social and infrastructure areas has created large pockets of poverty, with a needy population, unable to overcome the situation in which they find themselves.

For them, there is a natural tendency to reduce birth rates as living conditions improve. As families gain access to better education, health care, information, they tend to have fewer children.

For this reason, urbanization has a very important role, as it represents, at worst, access to minimum public services, something that in rural areas is not always accessible.

4. The Theory of Demographic Transition

In 1929, Warren Thompson proposed the concept of demographic transition as a way to challenge Malthusian theory. In this way, the idea of ​​the existence of an accelerated growth of the world population was replaced by that of periodic oscillations, that is, periods of greater and lesser vegetative growth .

The first stage, which occurred in agrarian societies and exporters of raw materials, has very high birth and mortality rates.

The second stage already reveals high birth rates, but with a sharp drop in mortality, which is due to the improvement of basic sanitation conditions, the use of antibiotics and technological development, even at a very early stage.

The third stage , in which Brazil is, shows a significant reduction in birth rates, justified by urban-industrial development, by the greater participation of women in the labor market, by late marriages and by the adoption of contraceptive methods.

The fourth stage , present in the most developed nations of the globe, has very low birth and death rates, with negative growth occurring in some cases. Some European countries, for example Germany, France and Sweden, offer financial compensation for couples to have more children. Such stimuli are focused on increasing birth rates and vegetative growth.

If the high birth rate, such as that which occurs in African and Southeast Asian countries, can pose serious problems for poor countries, its drastic reduction, with negative vegetative growth, also causes problems such as the lack of young labor for work. and excessive spending on the elderly.

Demographic Theories