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Economic Development and Demography

By rorzjohnston Apr 21, 2014 969 Words
Economic development’s effect on demography

Demographic behaviour is a measure of a combination of figures in which indicates how a country’s or region’s population is distributed. The effect of demographic behaviour is that it reflects a country’s stage of economic development to a great extent, allowing indication of how far along the Demographic Transition Model (and hence how developed) they are. One measurement of a country’s demographics are by measuring the birth rate (how many live babies being born per thousand people per year), and comparing this to the death rate (how many people dying per thousand people per year). This gives a good indication of social and environmental factors that, in turn, reflect upon a country’s wealth/economic development. For example, in Afghanistan, both birth rates and death rates are high- this implies that this country is in a low stage of economic development (i.e. Stage 1). This is because the high birth rate is present to replace those who are dying with such high death rates, this illustrates that Afghanistan has low; levels of sanitation, access to healthcare, and medical standards. (Another example of which is Sub-Saharan Africa where a woman would have to bear 8/9 children to be 95% certain of an adult male.) It would therefore follow that Afghanistan is poorly developed. However, demographic behaviour isn’t solely affected by economic development. There are factors that affect fertility rate such as those cultures, traditions and religions that promote large families-such as Roman Catholicism; seen particularly in Latin-American countries where the birth rates are high. That being said, these factors often fade as a country becomes more developed, e.g. Brazil, where birth rates are falling despite a majoritively Roman Catholic following. Conversely, some factors can influence fertility rate negatively such as: political factors; for example China’s one child policy, female education; where there is a renowned inverse correlation to fertility rates, and; family planning. The Demographic Transition Model (DTM) is a theoretical model illustrating a country’s demographic behaviour as it develops from Stages 1 to 5. It was based on the demography of the UK and other Western countries as they developed at a faster rate than others, where low income countries are in the lower stages (LEDC’s such as Bangladesh). It clearly signifies a change in countries’ population as it develops, initially the birth rates and death rates fluctuate due to uncertainties in agriculture, such as periods of famine (where a Stage 1 country depends upon subsistence farming for food). As a country continues to develop death rates fall, as sanitation improves, but birth rate remains high- population growth. In stage 3, reforms that prohibit child labour, for example, are introduced- this decreases the economic advantages of larger families, children become more expensive, so birth rates fall. In stage 4, birth and death rates are low due to as a result of medical advances and better nutrition, provoking a lower replacement rate as fewer people are dying and not needing to be replaced. In stage 5, the stable population growth seen in stage 4 declines when birth rates fall below death rates, or death rates rise due to affluence diseases, both incurring a natural decrease The standard measure of a country’s economic development is GDP per capita ($), this shows what the country makes in products and services divided amongst the population- a measure of wealth. This, however is combined with other social development indicators-by the UN- to produce the Human Development Index (HDI) to show a country’s all round development. As a country develops economically, there is an influx of people to cities as they begin to urbanise and new industries provide opportunity. This rural-urban migration can affect demographic behaviour, such as in the UK during the industrial revolution, cities became over-populated and hence unsanitary, so the death rates and infant mortality rose. Equally, as a country develops, cities still begin to expand as people migrate from rural to urban areas (such as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). Also, one of Ravenstein’s Laws states that immigrants will settle in urban areas, particularly seen in the USA where the 600,000 new citizens a year often flock towards the cities such as Los Angeles. The cause for the death rate not rising in these cases is that the governments are developed enough to hinder a rise of unsanitary conditions and can afford to maintain high levels of sanitation. This is paid for by the tax-payer who can, we can expect, afford such fees as a result of the high GDP per capita as seen in high income countries (MEDC’s). These taxes pay for social development, improving standards of living and therefore decreasing the death rate and lowering infant mortality. Due to this, stage 5 countries such as Germany are facing a natural decrease because, as their high HDI indicates, the standard of living is high, education is predominant and healthcare is advanced. This means that people are having fewer children as there is less of a danger of one dying, so the replacement rate has been subsided to 1.3 (where the figure in MEDC’s is on average 2.12). Overall, demographic behaviour does offer an illustration of a country’s level of economic development to a large extent, this is indicated by the clear changes in demographics in the DTM as a country progresses. An example of which is female education which increases as a country develops, eventually lowering the birth rate when women begin to work and gain access to contraceptives. However, demographic behaviour can be influenced by other factors such as war, where resultant migration often inhibits child birth- a stereotypical characteristic of a developed country but occurring (majorly) in LEDC’s/low income countries. Despite anomalies of this sort, the demography of a country does give clear correlations to its level of economic development.

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