How Can Economic Development Help Reduce Birth Rates?
Population geographers have examined the birth and death rates of western European countries that industrialized during the 19th century.
They developed a hypothesis of population change known as the demographic transition.
As countries become industrialized, first their death rates and then their birth rates decline in four steps:
Preindustrial stage, when their is little population growth because harsh living conditions lead to both a high birth rate (to compensate for high infant mortality) and a high death rate.
Transitional stage, when industrialization begins, food production rises, and health care improves.
Death rates drop and birth rates remain high, so the population grows rapidly (typically 2.5-3% a year).
Industrial stage, when the birth rate drops and eventually approaches the death rate as industrialization and modernization become widespread.
Population growth continues, but at a slower and perhaps fluctuating rate, depending on economic conditions.
Most developed countries are now in this third stage.
Postindustrial stage, when the birth rate declines further, equally the death rate and thus reaching zero population growth.
Then the birth rate falls below the death rate and total population size decreases slowly.
Thirty eight countries (most of them in Europe) containing about 13% of the world's population have entered this stage.
In most developing countries today, death rates have fallen much more than birth rates.
These developing countries are still in the transitional stage, halfway up the economic ladder, with high population growth rates.
Some economists believe that developing countries will make the demographic transition over the next few decades without increased family planning efforts.
However, despite encouraging declines in fertility, some population analysts fear that the still rapid population growth in many developing countries will outstrip economic growth and overwhelm local life-support systems
This could cause many of these countries to be caught in a demographic trap at stage 2.
This is happening in a number of developing countries, especially in Africa.
Some countries in Africa are being ravaged by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and are falling back to stage 1 as their death rates rise.
Analysts also point out that some of the conditions that allowed developed countries to develop are not available to many of today's developing countries.
Even with large and growing populations, many developing countries
do not have enough skilled workers to produce the high-end products needed to compete in the global economy.
lack the capital and resources needed for rapid economic development.
since 1980 have experienced a drop in economic assistance from developed countries and a rise in debt to such countries.
Since the mid 1980s, developing countries have paid developed countries $40-50 billion a year (mostly in debt interest) more than they received from these countries.