Optimum Population, the Malthusian Population Theory and the Demographic Transition Theory

Optimum population may be defined as the type of population which when combined with the available resources and the given level of existing technology secure a maximum return per head. Optimum population is neither too small or too large. In other words, optimum population stands in between the two other extremes of over population and under population. It is the best type of population and it differs from country to country and from time to time. Optimum population is dynamic, hence it changes according to the changing quantity and quality of a country's available resources.

1. At a given level of technology, it balances population with available resources.
2. The management or control of economy that has optimum population is very easy.
3. An optimum population ensures or secures a maximum return per head.
4. An optimum population is the population that produces full employment.
5. Optimum population is a dynamic population that changes with the changing quantity and quality of a country's available resources.
6. Optimum population also ensures the highest standard of living in a country.

Malthusian Population Theory
The Malthusian population theory is the outcome of an easy title "An Essay on Population" written in 1798 by Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, an Anglican clergyman and a well known political economist. The essay he wrote was influenced greatly by the rate at which the population in Europe at that time was growing at a very fast rate. In his essay, he highlighted the relationship between population and means of subsistence.

The main features of Malthusian theory
The main views or features of the Malthusian theory about population are:
1. That population was growing at a geometric progression such as 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc, while food production or supply was growing at an arithmetical progression such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc.
2. That there is a tendency for all living things to grow beyond the food available to them.
3. That unless population increase is matched with means of subsistence, negative and positive checks will come into force.
4. That the checks can be war, diseases, epidemics and famine
5. That population is essentially limited by the means of subsistence.

Developments or events that have proven Malthusian theory wrong
Developments or events that have rendered Malthusian theory wrong or irrelevant in present day situation is found in developed countries such as England, America, Japan, Germany etc. These developments include:
1. Development of technical knowledge and mechanization: The development of technical knowledge and mechanization of agriculture in advanced or developed countries has helped to increase food supply.
2. Changes in social attitude: Changes in social attitude like family size and family planing or birth control in these countries.
3. Efficient transportation system: Increased efficiency in the transportation system enables more materials to be provided to areas that needed them.
4. Industrial revolution: The industrial revolution, especially in Europe, also changed the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčland as a fixed factor of production.
5. Medical improvement: Medical improvement by way of efficient health care services also enables people to enjoy long life thereby proving Malthus theory wrong.
6. Opening of new colonies: The opening of new colonies like America, Canada, Australia etc provided the necessary land for human habitation.
7. Interdependency of nations: The interdependency of nations for goods and services available in large quantities as a result of international trade.

Developments or events that have proved Malthusian theory right
Developments or events that have proved Malthusian theory right or valid in developing countries in Asia and Africa. These events are as follows:
1. Negative attitude: Negative attitude like practice of polygamy, giving birth to many children, etc, have made the population of many developing countries increase on daily basis.
2. High population and low food production: The population of many developing countries is growing at a geometric progression while food production is growing at an arithmetical progression.
3. Difficulties in eradicating poverty; Poverty, which is inherent in a given society according to Malthus, has proven extremely difficult to be wiped out of many poor countries.
4. Poor economic development: Rapid population growth militates against rapid economic development and it grows faster than per capital income.
5. Fallen standard of living: The standard of living of many developing countries has fallen as a result of increase in population.

Demographic transition theory
The theory of demographic transition is the latest attempt made to provide a historical analysis into the population problems of developing countries. It tends to explain the reasons why all developed countries several years ago went through three identical stages of population history. The demographic transition theory puts up a model which recognizes three main stages in the process of population growth or demographic transition. The three stages are:
Stage 1: The pre-industrialization stage : The main feature of this stage is high birth rate and high death rate. The population at this stage is either static or increasing or decreasing at a very low rate. The population transition remains fairly stable.
Stage II: Transitional stage: This stage is characterized by high birth rate accompanied by low death rate. This stage leads to high population as a result of a number of factors such as industrialization, urbanization, better diet, higher income, improved medical services, etc. This stage marks the beginning of demographic transition. Many developing countries are currently at this stage of population growth.
Stage III: Post transition stage: This stage is characterized by a low birth rate and low death rate. In other words, there is a relatively stable population with an older and larger population. This stage is associated with developed countries.

Criticism against demographic transition theory
1. It is completely wrong to use the theory for general applications as it varies from one country to another.
2. Crude birth rate widely used in the theory is not the only way to measure fertility.
3. The main causes of decline in population may be different countries.
4. It fails to predict the levels of birth and death rates.

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