Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



The Demographic Transition

Demographic transition is a set of changes in reproductive behaviour that are experienced as a society is transformed from a traditional pre-industrial state to a highly developed, modernized structure. The transformation is the substitution of slow growth achieved with low fertility and mortality for slow growth maintained with relatively high fertility and mortality rates. Contrary to early descriptions of the transition, fertility in pre-modem societies was well below the maximum that might be attained. However, it was kept at moderate levels by customs (such as late marriage or prolonged breast-feeding) not related to the number of children already born. Fertility has been reduced during the demographic transition by the adoption of contraception as a deliberate means of avoiding additional births. An extensive study of the transition in Europe shows the absence of a simple link of fertility with education, proportion urban, infant mortality and other aspects of development. It also suggests the importance of such cultural factors as common customs associated with a common language, and the strength of religious traditions. Sufficient modernization nevertheless seems always to bring the transition to low fertility and mortality.

Ansley J. Coale

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