Perspectives of Population Growth: Easterlin, Davis & Mill

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Measurements of Fertility: Terms, Calculations & Interpretations

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 00:00 Population Growth
  • 00:41 John Stuart Mill
  • 1:48 Kingsley Davis
  • 3:17 Richard Easterlin
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore the theories on population growth from three major thinkers and discover what they thought about our future. Then you'll be able to test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Population Growth

Populations grow. I bet you knew that. I mean, if two people have kids, the population has just gone up. And if those kids have children of their own, the population goes up some more. It's even possible that the kids of the kids will have kids within the lifetime of the original parents. So, populations grow.

But there are a lot of questions surrounding this topic, like why they grow in specific ways, why some populations grow faster than others, why only certain groups are affected by major changes, and why some populations shrink while others expand. Population growth can be an interesting field of study. But I bet you knew that.

John Stuart Mill

There are a lot of questions you can ask about population growth. Luckily, there are also a few perspectives to help explain them.

Let's start with John Stuart Mill, a 19th-century British philosopher most remembered for his theories on individual liberty. Mill also had some thoughts on population. He supported the Malthusian theory of population growth, which basically said that a population will grow until it cannot be sustained, at which point, disease or warfare will reduce the population. So, Mill was worried that the rapid population growth of his day meant doom.

More specifically, he was worried that this would hit the working class the hardest since they were experiencing the fastest population growth. Mill also believed that their terrible living standards were already a result of overpopulation. Mill felt that population control was essential for improving the standard of living and was an active supporter of things like birth control to curb population growth.

Kingsley Davis

Kingsley Davis was a 20th-century American sociologist and really one of the most influential population theorists of the century. Davis researched population growth across the world and helped to establish the demographic transition model, which states that regions will go through predictable changes in population growth based on their level of industrial technology. Basically, populations grow as regions industrialize, due to new technology and better healthcare, but these same populations will level out once the economy is fully industrialized since people are more focused on careers than families.

Davis also contributed to the idea of zero population growth, the theory that a balanced population that neither grows nor shrinks (where the number of people born every year is roughly equal to the number that die) is the ideal condition for long-term sustainability. In other words, all nations should try to level out their populations and strive to achieve global zero population growth. This will prevent the population from becoming unsustainable and thereby avoid a Malthusian-style catastrophe that wipes out a large number of people.

Supporters of zero population growth also support active birth control programs including, at times, legally limiting the number of children each family may have, a program used by China to reduce population growth since 1978.

Richard Easterlin

Finally, we've got the Easterlin hypothesis, formulated by American economics professor Richard Easterlin in the late 1960s. According to this perspective, the positive relationship between income and fertility depends on the relationship between income and expectations. Basically, the idea is that young couples expect to have a standard of living that's at least as good as what they grew up with. So how does this influence population?

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it now

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 220 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account