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Does the demographic transition model still provide a 21st century framework for looking at demographical change in countries which are experiencing development? To what extent is the tool really useful or should we make it obsolete?

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Introduction

Does the DTM still provide a 21st century framework for looking at demographical change in countries which are experiencing development? To what extent is the tool really useful or should we make it obsolete? The demographic transition model is a means to calculate how countries will move from having high birth and death rates to low birth and death rates. It should allow us to predict the stages a developing country will have to pass through before it is fully industrialised. These changes are dependant on an array of social and economic factors for instance improved education, changes to women's roles (e.g. emancipation), better diet and enhanced healthcare. The demographic transition model is the result of compiled data, such as, birth rate, death rate and population from industrialised countries (mainly Europe and America). The DTM consists of 5 sections; there were originally 4 stages but the 5th was recently added when countries that were already considered to be fully developed continued to develop and change, making it necessary to modify and update the model. In stage 1 birth and death rates fluctuate at a high level (about 35 per 1000) giving a small population growth. Stage 2 is characterised by high birth rates but rapidly falling death rate to about 20 per 1000 people giving a rapid population growth. ...read more.

Middle

were imported from colonising countries and so arrived far more quickly than in Europe. This means that it was not a necessity for countries to industrialise to lower the death rate and so whilst the country might, technically, be progressing through the model, it is not industrialising. Similarly the model assumed that stage 3 followed several decades after stage 2 and that death rate fell as a consequence of changes brought about by changes in the birth rate. This has often not been the case. In some countries the onset of stage 3 was held back by the population's attitudes to family size, birth control, status, women (many believe that emancipation is necessary for industrialisation and socioeconomic change), religion etc. In other cases the fall was speeded by government intervention such as China's one child per family policy and some of it's subsequent population policies. The original model had had to be adapted to include a 5th stage. This seemed to happening in some countries of Western Europe and in Japan in the late 20th century. It is now clearly seen in some countries in east and central Europe, where death rate exceeds the birth rate. As one stage had to be added, is it not feasible that a 6th or even a 7th stage be added at some stage in the future? ...read more.

Conclusion

However, when applied to countries that are still developing it has very limited use. It cannot be used for countries that are growing as a result of immigration as it does not account for this, this adds to the idea that the DTM cannot be used as a general tool for all countries. An unforeseen lethal disease renders it useless. Not all countries choose to industrialise which means that their demographic transition will either stay in stage 1 or the countries will import the factors needed to progress, hence still not following the model though still, possibly, reaching the same end. Also it could be argued that countries in Europe and the US are still developing and we have no data available to make projections about our future. The tool is not entirely obsolete, it can be used to look at the past, but has limited use for the future, though it must be said that with any model a demographer could not hope to make predictions but merely projections. It seems likely that as more data is made available for the demographic change of countries outside of the western world, the DTM will have to be added to and changed, or maybe a new one will have to be formulated to work beside the old one, to compensate for the limitations that must be present in all models. ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

A good review of the strengths and limitations of the DTM. This essay could be further strengthened through incorporation of specific examples and data as evidence for the points being made.
4 stars.

Marked by teacher Molly Reynolds 20/08/2013

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