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Four Phases in the demographic transition. Implications for economic and social development


  • Malmberg, Bo

    () (Institute for Futures Studies)

  • Sommestad, Lena

    (Ministry of the Environment)


Traditionally, the demographic transition model has focused primarily on long-term changes in mortality rates, fertility rates and population growth rates. Of equal, or perhaps even greater, importance is however the transformation of the age structure that the transition engenders. In this paper we focus on this age transition and argue that (1) The age transition is a more extended process than the mortality and fertility transition. It starts simultaneously with the mortality decline and continues almost one hundred years after a stabilization of the birth rates. (2) During the age transition population growth will be concentrated in turn to the youngest age groups, the young adult group, the middle age group and the old age group. (3) During these different phases of the age transition, the social and economic effects of population growth will be different. Poverty, child labor and low savings rates characterize the phase child abundance. The second phase, when young adults predominate, is characterized by high rates of migration, urbanization and proletarization, and by early industrialization and institutional transformation. In the third phase, when the number of middle aged increase, the economy is characterized by high savings rates and large increases in per capita income. The old age phase, finally is characterized by an increasing dependency burden, declining savings rates, inflationary pressures, an expanding public sector, and stagnating economic growth. The paper argues that these patterns may be explained by the shifts in economic behavior that take place during the life cycle. Recent studies of age structure effects on macro-economic variables are referred. The argument is illustrated with historical examples from Sweden, England, and Western Europe, along with modern examples from Asia, Africa and Latin-America.

Suggested Citation

  • Malmberg, Bo & Sommestad, Lena, 2000. "Four Phases in the demographic transition. Implications for economic and social development," Arbetsrapport 2000:6, Institute for Futures Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifswps:2000_006 Note: ISBN 91-89655-13-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wasmer, Etienne, 2002. "Interpreting Europe and US labor markets differences: the specificity of human capital investments," Arbetsrapport 2003:9, Institute for Futures Studies.
    2. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2002. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1133-1191.
    3. Palme, Mårten & Svensson, Ingemar, 2002. "Pathways to Retirement and Retirement Incentives in Sweden," Arbetsrapport 2002:9, Institute for Futures Studies.
    4. Andersson, Jenny, 2002. "Alva´s Futures Ideas in the construction of Swedish Futures Studies," Arbetsrapport 2002:5, Institute for Futures Studies.
    5. Lagerlöf, Nils-Petter, 2001. "From Malthus to Modern Growth: Can Epidemics Explain the Three Regimes?," Arbetsrapport 2001:1, Institute for Futures Studies.
    6. Ranehill, Eva, 2002. "Social snedrekrytering till högre studier - En litteraturöversikt," Arbetsrapport 2002:10, Institute for Futures Studies.
    7. Sommestad, Lena, 2001. "Health and Wealth: The Contribution of Welfare State Policies to Economic Growth," Arbetsrapport 2001:3, Institute for Futures Studies.
    8. Dahlberg, Susanne & Nahum, Ruth-Aïda, 2003. "Cohort Effects on Earnings Profiles: Evidence from Sweden," Arbetsrapport 2003:3, Institute for Futures Studies.
    9. Lindh, Thomas & Malmberg, Bo, 2002. "Swedish post-war economic development. The role of age structure in a welfare state," Arbetsrapport 2003:4, Institute for Futures Studies.
    10. Malmberg, Bo & Sommestad, Lena, 2000. "Tunga trender i den globala utvecklingen," Arbetsrapport 2000:2, Institute for Futures Studies.
    11. Malmberg, Bo & Lindh, Thomas, 2004. "Forecasting global growth by age structure projections," Arbetsrapport 2004:5, Institute for Futures Studies.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Global Demographics - Issues and Challenges?
      by CV in on 2008-04-17 11:41:45
    2. Global Demographics - (Almost) Uncharted Waters
      by Admin in global economy matters on 2008-04-28 14:47:00


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    Age; transition;

    JEL classification:

    • J00 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - General


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