Major Factors Affecting the Increase in Population Growth

Tags: Malthusianism, Economics, Gross domestic product

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As can be seen in Figure 1, the world's population grew very slowly until about 1750. There was a long period of stationary growth (no growth) until 1000 B.C.E., when the world's population was approximately 300 million; this was followed by a period of slow growth from 1000 B.C.E. to approximately 1750, at which time global population was an estimated 800 million. Until this time, the world's population was kept in check by high death rates, which were due to the combined effects of plagues, famines, unsanitary living conditions, and general poverty. After 1750, the world's population grew substantially; by 1950 it had tripled to around 2.5 billion. In this 200-year period, the doubling time was 122 years. Growth from 1950 to 1985 was even more dramatic; by 1985, the human population was 5 billion. World population had doubled in thirty-five years. By 2000 global population was 6 billion and is projected to be 9 billion in 2050. Population growth did not become exponential until around 1750. Before that, high mortality counterbalanced the high fertility needed by agrarian parents. Death rates were high and life expectancy was low; life expectancy at birth was in the range of twenty to forty years (most likely around thirty years) until the middle of the eighteenth century. This high mortality was a function of several factors, including poor nutrition, which led directly to deaths through starvation and indirectly through increasing susceptibility to disease; epidemics; and, quite possibly, infanticide and geronticide, especially during times of food shortage. Starting in the middle of the eighteenth century, the mortality rate began to decline in the West, the first place in the world where the natural balance between births and deaths was altered by humans. This decline in deaths occurred not because of major medical breakthroughs (e.g., penicillin was first used only in the 1940s) but rather because of improvements in food...
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