The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

Living Edition
| Editors: Palgrave Macmillan

Demographic Transition

  • Ronald D. Lee
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history



The ‘demographic transition’ refers to the fall of fertility and mortality from initially high to subsequent low levels and accompanying changes in the population. It began around 1800 with declining mortality in Europe, and is expected to be complete worldwide by 2100. In that time the global population will have risen tenfold, the ratio of elders to children will have risen by a factor of ten, longevity will have tripled, and fertility fallen from six births per woman to two. Individual and population ageing will pose many challenges, from life-cycle planning to the rising costs of health care and retirement.


Ageing populations Capital–labour ratio Demographic transition Dependency ratio Fertility in developed countries Fertility in developing countries Health care International capital flows International migration Life expectantcy Malthus, T. Mortality Nutrition and development 

JEL Classifications

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bhat, P. 1989. Mortality and fertility in India, 1881–1961: A reassessment. In India’s historical demography: Studies in famine, disease and society, ed. T. Dyson. London: Curzon Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bulatao, R. and Casterline, J., eds. 2001. Global fertility transition, a supplement to population and development review 27.Google Scholar
  3. Coale, A., and S. Watkins, eds. 1986. The decline of fertility in Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Lee, R. 2003. The demographic transition: Three centuries of fundamental change. Journal of Economic Perspectives 17(4): 167–190.Google Scholar
  5. Malthus, T. 1798. An essay on the principle of population, ed. D. Winch and P. James. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.Google Scholar
  6. Pritchett, L. 1994. Desired fertility and the impact of population policies. Population and Development Review 20: 1–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Riley, J. 2001. Rising life expectancy: A global history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. UNPD (United Nations Population Division). 2003. World population prospects: The 2002 revision. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  9. UNPD. 2005. World population prospects: The 2004 revision. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald D. Lee
    • 1
  1. 1.