Population Pyramids: Definition, Types, Stages Video

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  • 0:03 What Are Population Pyramids
  • 0:50 Types
  • 1:48 Stages
  • 3:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that there are five stages of population pyramids? In this lesson, learn more about the different types, and stages, of population pyramids as well as look at some examples.

What Are Population Pyramids?

Imagine you are a sociologist studying population growth in North America. Specifically, you are interested in examining the age and sex of the population. One way in which you can accomplish this goal is to create a population pyramid.

Population pyramids are graphical representations of the age and sex of a population. For this reason, population pyramids are also referred to as age-sex pyramids. We refer to these graphs as pyramids because they are usually shaped like triangles, though as we will see shortly, population pyramids also take other shapes. Population pyramids usually have males on the left side and females on the right. There is also a vertical line in the middle of the graph that separates the males from the females.


There are three types of population pyramids: expansive, constrictive, and stationary.

Expansive population pyramids depict populations that have a larger percentage of people in younger age groups. Populations with this shape usually have high fertility rates with lower life expectancies. Many third world countries have expansive population pyramids.

Constrictive population pyramids are named so because they are constricted at the bottom. There is a lower percentage of younger people. Constrictive population pyramids show declining birth rates, since each succeeding age group is getting smaller and smaller. The United States has a constrictive population pyramid.

Stationary population pyramids are those that show a somewhat equal proportion of the population in each age group. There is not a decrease or increase in population; it is stable. Austria has a stationary population pyramid.


There are five stages of population pyramids: high fluctuating, early expanding, late expanding, low fluctuating, and natural decrease.

The first stage is high fluctuating. High fluctuating population pyramids have wide bases and narrow tops, which indicates that there are few old people in the population and a high percentage of young people. These pyramids are also concave due to their high birth and death rates, and low life expectancies.

The second stage is early expanding. In this stage, people are reproducing at a higher rate than they die. Populations in this stage still have low life expectancies and high birth rates.

The third stage is late expanding. The top is still shaped like a pyramid; however, the bottom begins to level out as the birth rate becomes more stable and life expectancy continues to increase.

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