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Demographic Transition Model

Learn more about the different stages of the Demographic Transition Model - from birth rate to death rate with everything in between.


The Demographic Transition Model (DMT) shows how the birth and death rate of a population affect the overall population over time. It is split into four distinct stages. Many have questioned the possibility of a fifth section which our global population would be entering in the 21st century.

Stage 1

In the past, due to poor water supply, poor health care and unreliable farming methods the death rate in societies was very high. Conversely, birth rates were also at their peak because of a lack of education and availability of contraception. Because infant mortality rate was very high people were more willing to try and have lots of children in case there were complications. Therefore in stage one, the high birth and death rates cancel each other out, resulting in a low total population.

Stage 1 represents the global population a few hundred years ago or the modern local population of areas such as the Amazon and very remote areas of Bangladesh.

Stage 2

At this point population begins to rise almost exponentially as there is a dramatic drop in the death rate. This was mainly due to technological and medical advances. At this time there were no changes to the birth rate due to a lack of education around contraception and continued reliance on religion, meaning that the total population rose quickly.

Stage 2 represents the global population during the industrial revolution or local populations in areas such as Ghana or Afghanistan.

Stage 3

Here the death rate is still continuing to fall due to advances in medical care and improvements in water quality. The birth rate begins to fall as family planning begins to be accessed and couples see that large families are expensive and that women have opportunities to be in the work place.

Stage 3 represents the global population during the mid-20th century or countries such as Mexico.

Stage 4

In stage 4 the birth and death rates begin to cancel each other out, resulting in a stable population where natural increase is low. Birth rates are the lowest they have ever been as women begin to choose a career over having multiple children or have smaller families to increase their income and improve their quality of life.

Stage 4 represents the current global population or countries such as South Korea and the United States.

Stage 5

There is some controversy over whether stage 5 should be incorporated into the model, however in this stage the birth rate actually falls below the death rate, resulting in a natural decrease in the population. In this period the death rate remains low and the population begins to age.

Stage 5 possibly represents the future global population or countries such as Italy and Japan.


As with all models, the DTM is just a guide and cannot be used to predict changes. Many countries will have not and will not pass through some of the stages, for example the United States entered the model at the second stage as they gained their population through emigration. The model does not account for these sorts of human and natural impacts which could cause a huge change to a countries population. Therefore it is important to be able to evaluate and criticise the model.