What Is Demographic Transition? - Definition & Stages

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  • 0:06 Demography
  • 0:46 What is Demographic…
  • 1:42 Stages of Demographic…
  • 5:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has taught many Biology and Environmental Science courses and has Master's degrees in Environmental Science and Education.

There are many differences between non-industrial and industrial countries. In this lesson, we will explore the concept of demographic transition and the stages that guide a country through its changes into an industrial country.


Take a minute and think about major cities in the United States. There are some regions of the U.S., such as the Northeast and Southwest, that have very large cities. On the other hand, there are areas of the U.S., such as the Midwest, that have much smaller cities. This example of uneven distribution would be a topic of demography, which is the study of the size, density, and distribution of the human population. This area of study takes into account birth rates, death rates, age distribution, and any other factors that influence the size and growth of a population.

What is Demographic Transition?

Over the course of human history, there have been many people who have been interested in the characteristics of the human population and the future of population growth. After analyzing how western populations have changed over time, one pattern was discovered that indicated there was a connection between population growth and the economic development of a country. It was observed that in countries with high standards of living, the population grew at a slow rate, while in countries with low standards of living, the population grew more rapidly.

This discovery resulted in the creation of the concept of demographic transition, which is a series of stages that a country goes through when transitioning from non-industrial to industrial. The demographic transition concept involves four stages that are based on changes to population size and social behaviors.

Stages of Demographic Transition

Pre-Industrial Stage

The first stage of the demographic transition is the pre-industrial stage. During this stage, the population is stable, with both high birth rates and high death rates. The death rates are high because there is increased disease, minimal medical care, poor sanitation, and limited food supplies. As a result of the high death rate, people tend to produce more offspring to try to compensate for the mortality. Although the birth rate and death rate can fluctuate slightly, overall they remain equal, which results in zero population growth.

Transitional Stage

Following the pre-industrial stage is the transitional stage. During this stage, the human population begins to increase due to high birth rates and declining death rates. The death rates are decreasing because, as the country transitions into an industrial country, there are improvements in the economy and social conditions. These changes lead to the control of diseases, the production of more food, better jobs, and improved medical care and sanitation.

As the death rates decrease, the birth rates remain high because people are still accustomed to producing more children, and during this stage, they have more food and resources to support larger families. As a result of the declining death rates and high birth rates, the human population will increase at a rapid pace.

Industrial Stage

The third stage of the demographic transition is the industrial stage, which is characterized by an increasing population with declining birth rates and low death rates. The death rates remain stable and low during this stage due to the continuation of the economic and social changes that improved the standard of living during the previous stage. During this stage, the birth rates begin to decline for many reasons. For the most part, people realize that they no longer have to produce large numbers of offspring because the offspring they do produce have a higher chance of surviving to adulthood. Many people also start to prefer smaller families, where they can concentrate more resources on less people and increase overall livelihood.

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