The Demographic Transition Model

By Alex Jackson

Last updated on

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The content on this page is extremely old. Much has changed in the world since this article was written. While many of the concepts will still be relevant, figures and case studies are likely to be outdated at this point.

The DTM describes how the population of a country changes over time. It shows changes in the birth rate and death rate of a country. The original model showed that countries passed through 4 stages however more recent versions of the model use 5 stages.


  • It can be applied to all countries.
  • It provides a starting point to demographic change over time.
  • The timescales are flexible.
  • It’s easy to understand.
  • It enables comparisons between countries.


  • Birth rates in several MEDCs have fallen below death rates. This has caused the population to decline which suggests that the model should have a fifth stage.

  • The DTM is Eurocentric as the model assumes that all countries pass through the same four stages. It now seems unlikely, however, that Africa and many other LEDCs will ever be industrialised. There are also variables and exceptions such as war that may lead to different results.

  • The model assumes the fall in death rate in stage 2 was due to industrialisation. In the UK, however, the death rate rose due to the poor conditions during the industrial revolution. The delayed fall in death rate in many LEDCs is due to the inability for people to afford healthcare. In many countries, the fall in birth rate has been slower in stage 3 due to opposition by religious organisations. Alternatively, in China, the birth rate has fallen sharply due to government intervention.

  • The timescale of the model, especially in several South-East Asian countries such as Hong Kong and Malaysia, is being squashed as they develop at a much faster rate than earlier industrialised countries. The UK stayed in stage 2 for over 100 years as social, economic and technological changes were introduced slowly and death rate fell slowly. In many LEDCs, death rate has fallen more rapidly because changes (i.e. the introduction of western medicine) have taken place much more quickly. The birth rate has stayed high and so the population has increased rapidly.

  • The model does not include the impacts of migration. Countries that grew as a consequence of emigration from Europe (e.g, USA, Canada & Australia) did not pass through the earlier stages of the model.