Malthusian and Demographic Theories of Population

  1. Malthusian Population Theory

This is a theory formulated by Thomas Robert Malthus in a book titled An Essay on the Principle of Population as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society which was published in 1798 in Britain.

Features of Malthusian Population Theory

  1. That Population may increase in geometrical progression i.e. 2, 4, 8, and 16
  2. That food production (means of subsistence) can only increase in an arithmetic progression, i.e. 1,2,3,4 etc.
  3. That there might be starvation in the world as population may outgrow food production.
  4. To check these problems he proffered the following solutions:
  • Obvious and positive checks such as wars, pestilences, famine and disease
  • Preventive checks which include birth control and moral restraint. By moral restraints, he meant late marriages, restraints by married couple and celibacy.

An Appraisal of the Malthusian Theory

Malthus and his population theory were severely criticized, and later was tagged “the gloomy doctrine.”  However, we shall examine events that proved Malthusian theory wrong and events that proved his theory right.

Events that Proved Malthusian Theory Wrong

  1. New techniques of farming also called the Agrarian revolution brought about increase in food production.
  2. Many new lands such as America, New Zealand, Australia and Africa were opened. This increased the amount of food production.
  3. There was an industrial revolution which brought about the establishment of many industries.
  4. Also, much of the effects of Malthus’ positive checks were reduced due to advances in medical science and technology.

Relevance of Malthus’ Theory to West African Countries OR Events that Proved Malthusian Theory Right

  1. There is high rate of population growth in West African countries.
  2. Method of production is still primitive leading to low food production as against the rising population.
  3. High rate of poverty and low standard of living are prevalent among the West African countries.
  4. The rate of economic development is very slow because population has outgrown the resources available
  5. In Nigeria and other West African countries, there have been calls to increase food production and practice some forms of birth control. The Nigeria examples are the Operation Feed the Nation and Green Revolution; Operation Feed Yourself in Ghana
  1. The Demographic Transition Theory

This is the most recent of all the theories of population. It says that a country passes through three stages of population growth.

  1. Stage OnePre-Industrial or Pre-Transition Phase

This stage is characterized by high birth rate and death rates. The high Birth rate is due to level of illiteracy, absence of family planning, early marriage, etc. High death rate is also due to wide spread of diseases, poor medical facilities, poor hygiene and poor diet

  1. Stage TwoTransition Phase

In stage two, the country is now developed economically. Thus, there is a high birth rate but low death rate. This is due to:

  • Large production of food
  • Improved standard of living
  • Dietary improvement
  • Industrialization, etc.
  1. Stage ThreePost Transition Stage

This is the last stage of the demographic transition. It is characterized by low birth and death rates. This is due to the fact that people prefer to maintain a small family size. Therefore, the population growth rate is low. Advanced countries like Europe, North America and Australia are said to have reached this stage.

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