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Demographic Transition Theory

Dudley Kirk
Population Studies
Vol. 50, No. 3 (Nov., 1996), pp. 361-387
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2174639
Page Count: 27
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Demographic Transition Theory
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Abstract

Demography is a science short on theory, rich in quantification. Nevertheless, demography has produced one of the best documented generalizations in the social sciences: the demographic transition. What is the demographic transition? Stripped to its essentials it is the theory that societies progress from a pre-modern regime of high fertility and high mortality to a post-modern regime of low fertility and low mortality. The cause of the transition has been sought in the reduction of the death rate by controlling epidemic and contagious diseases. Then, with modernization, children become more costly. Cultural changes weaken the importance of children. The increasing empowerment of women to make their own reproductive decisions leads to smaller families. Thus there is a change in values, emphasizing the quality of children rather than their quantity. In short, the fertility transition is becoming universal phenomenon, in which every country may be placed on a continuum of progress in the transition.

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