Ask a Question


Demographyis the statistical description and analysis of human population. It refers toascertaining the numbers and distribution of people, changes in the numbers anddistribution of people over time, age and sex composition, birth and deathrates among various quantities of populations.

Studyof population seeks to discover the causes and consequences of populationchanges. The changes in population take place primarily due to changes inbirths, deaths and migration, which are referred to as the three components ofpopulation change. As an interplay of these three components one looks at thenumber of total persons which is usually referred to as size; the characteristics ofpopulation, called composition; and where are these people located, labeled as distribution of population. Prior tothe discussion of the significance of the study of population it seemspertinent to explain some of the basic concepts likely to be used in thisdiscourse.


Crude Birth Rate:

Thenumber of live births per year per thousand of the population.

Totalbirths in a specific year

———————————-X 1000

Totalpopulation in that year

TheCBR is “crude” because (1) it does not take into account, which people in thepopulation were actually at risk of having births, and (2) it ignores the agestructure of the population.

Crudebirth rates are very general statistics that are useful for making overallcomparisons between different groups, societies and regions.


Thenumber of live-born children the average woman has. It may be called childwomen ratio.

TotalNo. of children aged 0-4 in year X


TotalNo. of women aged 15-49 in year X

Afertility rate is usually calculated as the average number of births perthousand women of childbearing age (15-49 years).

Totalbirths in year X

———————————–X 1000

Totalwomen aged 15-49


Thepotential number of children a normal woman is biologically capable of bearing.It is  physically possible for a normalwoman to bear a child every year during part of her life when she is capable ofconception. While there may be families in which a woman bears twenty or morechildren, fertility rate are always much lower than fecundity rates becausesocial and cultural factors limit breeding.

Crude Death Rate:

Thenumber of deaths per thousand of the population per year.

Totaldeath in a specific year

———————————–X 1000

Totalpopulation in that year

Crudedeath rates are also called as mortality rates.

Mortality: The number of deaths ina population.

Infant MortalityRate: The number of babies per thousand live births in any year who die beforereaching the age of one year.

Life Expectancy: The number of years anaverage person can expect to live. Life expectancy has increased in mostsocieties in the world in the past century.

Life Span: The maximum number ofyears that an individual could live.

Migration: The Permanent movement of persons overa significant distance.

Internationalmigration: Migrant crosses the boundary between one country and another.

Emigrant: When persons leave theircountry.

Immigrant: When persons arrive inanother country.

Internal migration: Migration within acountry.

Population Census:

Thesimultaneous recording of demographic data by government, at a particular time,pertaining to all persons who live in a particular territory. It usually takesplace after every 10 years.

Vital Statistics: Registrationof a person’s birth, changes in civil status throughout his/her lifetime, and his/herdeath.


Thereare three main questions to look into the significance of population study:

1. How many people? Itrefers to the size of the population in a territory. While looking at the size, one alsolooks at the changes that are taking place in the size. How are these changes being effectedby the trends in birth rate, death rate, and in migration?

2. What kind of people? It refers to the composition of the population. The composition includes the characteristics of thepopulation with respect to the age structure, sex differences, literacy rateand levels of literacy, religious distribution, languages people speak, occupationalstructure, housing structure, etc. In addition to the absolute figures showingthe characteristics one also looks at the changes that might be taking place inthe composition of the population as well as its future implications.

3. How are people distributed in the area? Distribution of population refers to the dispersion of people in a territory like therural-urban distribution, size of cities, densities of population.

Analysisof the distribution takes into account the prospective changes as well as itsfuture effects.

Peoplebelonging to different walks of life are interested in the existing as well asthe foreseeable trends in the size, composition and distribution of population.

Forexample a planner is looking at the size of the population because he has totie it with other social and economic resources of the country. He has to lookinto the correlations between the size of population and the economicdevelopment of the country. How are the changes in population size influencingthe economic development and vice a versa? The composition of the population maybe reflective of quality of the human resource, which can be utilized for thedevelopment of the economy. The changes in the composition may also suggest thekind of investments needed in the various components of the population.

Thedistribution of population is of specific interest to the planner when he hasto look into the varying needs of people at different places.

Fromthe political perspective one has to look into the size of population whiledetermining the boundaries of constituent areas as well as the number ofmembers of the National Assembly, the Senate, and Provincial

Assemblies.The information about the composition as well as the distribution of populationhelps in the determining the number of voters, the type of voters, and thelocation of voters.

Abusinessman shall be interested in the population because he uses the manpowerin the production of goods and services and ultimately he shall be looking forthe consumers of his goods and services. At various stage of his businessoperations he shall be interested in all the three components of populationi.e., size, composition, and distribution. He produces goods and serviceskeeping in view the characteristics of the ultimate consumers.

Thestudy of population is of utmost significance to an educationist because he hasto look into the educational needs of the population and arrange the facilitiesaccordingly. What is the size of population, of which how many are of schoolgoing age, what is the their gender, what is the occupational background of theirparents, where are they located – in rural/urban areas, are some of the pertinentquestions about which he should have enough information prior to chalking outan action program. The study of population helps in providing the relevantinformation.

Theseexamples suggest that in whatever field we work, the demographic information isof utmost value for planning, implementation, and success of any plan. Thecauses and consequences of changes in the size, composition, and distributionof population have a bearing on the socio economic development of the country.


Inpre-modern societies, birth rates were very high by the standards of industrializedworld today.

Nonetheless,population growth quite was low until the 18th century because there was a rough overall balancebetween births and deaths. The general trend of the numbers was upwards, andthere were sometimes periods of more marked population increase, but these werefollowed by increase in death rates.

Duringthe period of the rise industrialism, many looked forward to a new age in whichscarcity would be a phenomenon of the past. The development of modern industry,it was widely supposed, would create a new era of abundance in which standardsof living would rise. These ideas were criticized by Thomas Robert Malthus(1766-1834), a clergyman and an economist.

Malthusian Theory of Population

In1798 Malthus published an Essay on the Principleof Population. By analyzing the thenprevailing situation in different countries Malthus initiated a debate aboutthe connection between population and food resources that continues to thisday. His premise was that: (1) food was necessary for the continuation of life,and (2) procreation was also necessary for the continuation of life. Necessityof food for human survival is to continue, similarly the passions between thesexes are to continue, and both are natural necessities of life.

Butthe two necessary factors of human life grow at different rate. Whereaspopulation size increases geometrically (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64), the food supplyincreases arithmetically (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,). Population size, therefore,always pushes against the limits of food supply needed to support thepopulation. There is a limit to increase the food supply by bringing more landunder cultivation but there is limit to that. With the existing rate of growth,the population was expected to double every 25 years.

Forsuch a high growth rate of population, human beings should adopt such measuresto check the growth of population. In his opinion the population checks were:

a. Preventive checks, and

b. Positive checks.

Amongthe preventive checks, Malthus recommended (1) to follow celibacy (2) to marrylate, (3) abstinence from entering into sexual unions resulting in procreation.If human beings don’t adopt the “preventive checks”, “positive checks” comeinto operation in the form of famine, epidemics, war, and other natural calamities,and a lot of population is wiped out. For the remaining population food supplymay be sufficient, though it may be a temporary relief.

There has been lot of criticism ofMalthusian theory of population by arguing that:

  1. Malthus did notvisualize the power of science and technology with the help of which the food supplycould be revolutionized. Even one country like Canada could produce so much of wheatthat could be sufficient for the whole of the world. But will Canada supplywheat free? Not at all. Even if it is free some countries may not even have theability to bear the transportation costs.
  2. Malthus did not advocatethe use of contraceptives as a means of preventive measure, though these wereavailable during his times. Being a clergyman perhaps he did not consider the advocacyof the use of contraceptives as appropriate.
  3. Malthus presented a toopessimistic picture of the growth of population. Population of many technologicallyadvanced countries did not follow his predictions.

Nevertheless,the essay on population growth by Malthus generated lot of discussion on thetopic, and

Malthusmay rightly be considered as the father of population studies. The more guardedoutlook is that we no longer could use technology as an excuse to ignoreMalthus.

Theory of Demographic Transition

Demographictransition theory links birth rates and death rates to a society’s level of industrialization – theprocess by which a society’s economy shifts from a predominantly agriculturaland handicraft base to a predominantly industrial and large scale manufacturing base. There are four stages in the demographic transition as seen inthe figure.

Duringthe pre-industrial stage, high birth rates are balanced by high death rates,and population size remains fairly stable. Today the least industrializednations of the world are in this demographic stage.

Duringstage 2, the stage of increasing industrialization, the death rate fallsprimarily because of the improved sanitation, hygiene, and medical conditions.The birth rate, however, remains high because of the continued influence oftraditional values favoring large families. Having several children ensuressurvival of at least some of them when infant mortality is high. During thisstage the imbalance between the falling death rate and the high birth rateresults in high population growth. Pakistan like many other developing nationsis in this stage of transition.

Atthe third stage the traditional values give way to modern values favoringcontraception and family planning. Birth rates decline as a result of laterages at marriage, urbanization, industrialization, rising aspirations, andother factors. The mortality rates eventually stabilize at low level and birthrates follow.

Theshift from high to low mortality and fertility is known as the “demographictransition”. This shift occurred throughout Europe, North America, and a numberof other areas in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and started in many developing countries in the middle of 20th century. Although thepace and paths of decline varied tremendously among countries, the demographictransition emerged as the dominant model of demographic change.

Atthe fourth stage the birth rates fall to about the same level as mortality rates.With births and deaths at similar low levels, the equilibrium of slowpopulation growth is regained.

Thepace of change in a country varies depending on its culture, level of economicdevelopment, and other factors. As countries pass through the various stages ofthe transition, population growth from natural increase (birth rate – deathrate) accelerates or decelerates depending upon the gap between birth rate and thedeath rate. Many developing countries are in an intermediate stage, in whichmortality and fertility are falling at varying rates but are still highrelative to the levels of Europe and other more developed areas.

Manylow-fertility countries have entered what some describe as a “seconddemographic transition” in which fertility falls below the two-childreplacement level as forces of contemporary life interfere with childbearing.This transition has been linked with greater educational and job opportunitiesfor women, the availability of effective contraception, a shift away fromformal marriage, the acceptance of childbearing outside marriage, and the riseof individualism and materialism.

Expertsdisagree about whether all countries will follow the transition experienced inEurope and about whether there are additional stages of transition that we havenot identified – long-term population decline, for example. But the demographictransition theory provides a useful framework for assessing demographic trendsand projecting future population size.

Post a comment