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:



 Death rates drop and birth rates remain high, so the population grows rapidly (typically 2.5-3% a year).



Population growth continues, but at a slower and perhaps fluctuating rate, depending on economic conditions.


Most developed countries are now in this third stage.



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




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.