Malthus population theory

English priest Thomas Malthus (1766–1834) predicted the planet would not be able to support the world’s expanding population. The number of people who may live in a particular region while taking into account the number of resources available would depend on three criteria, according to Malthusian theory, which would regulate a human population that surpassed the earth’s maximum capacity. Malthus named war, starvation, and disease as the causes (Malthus, 1798). He referred to them as “positive checks” since they raise death rates, which helps to control the population. “Preventive checks,” which reduce fertility rates rather than birth rates to regulate the population, are opposed by “preventive measures.” Examples of preventive checks are birth control and celibacy.

When considering the real world, Malthus realized that while food production was limited in a given year, population growth was exponential. He believed that eventually people would run out of resources and start to perish. They would fight over resources until the population was controllable, and then the cycle would start all over again.

Of course, nothing like this has really occurred. Long after Malthus’s forecasts, the human population has been increasing. Then what took place? Why did we not perish? Sociologists say there are three reasons why the world’s population is still growing. 

  • First, advances in technology have boosted the number and caloric quality of calories we can create per person. 
  • Second, new medicines have been created by human ingenuity to reduce disease-related deaths. 
  • Finally, the invention and widespread adoption of family planning methods such as contraception have slowed the rate of population growth. 

What about the future, though? Some people still think Malthus was right and that there won’t be enough resources to maintain the planet’s population for much longer.

Zero population growth theory

Paul Ehrlich, a neo-Malthusian researcher, took Malthus’s theories into the twentieth century. Ehrlich, meanwhile, asserts that the environment, not only the availability of food, will be vital to the population of the planet’s continuing health (Ehrlich 1968). According to Ehrlich’s theories, the human population is swiftly approaching total environmental collapse as privileged individuals use or contaminate a variety of natural resources, including water and air. He promoted the concept of zero population growth (ZPG), which states that the number of individuals who are born into a population or who immigrate should be equal to the number of people who emigrate or die. Although there is disagreement about the idea, it is nevertheless seen as a potential remedy for world overpopulation.

Cornucopian Theory

Other theories tend to be less concerned with the negative supposition that the world’s population would face a difficult time supporting itself. Cornucopian philosophy scorns the notion of humanity annihilating itself and maintains that any ecological or societal problems that arise may be solved by human creativity. It uses the issue of the availability of food as an illustration. The argument holds that if we need more food, agricultural experts will find out how to produce more, just as they have done for millennia. In this view, there is no reason why human creativity won’t continue to be successful when it has been doing so for thousands of years (Simon 1981).

Demographic Transition Theory

We can observe distinct trends in population increase, regardless of whether you think the world is about to end and humanity as we know it is in danger, or whether you think people will always adjust to new conditions. As communities transition from pre-industrial to post-industrial, their development follows a predictable continuum. According to the idea of demographic transition (Caldwell and Caldwell 2006), population growth will go through a predetermined four-stage model in the future.

In Stage 1, life expectancy is low and the rates of birth, death and infant mortality are all high. The 1800s in the United States are a prime illustration of this phase. Stage 2 of the industrialization process sees a rise in birth rates and a decline in newborn mortality and death rates. Additionally, life expectancy rises.  Once a culture has fully industrialized, stage 3 sets in; birth rates start to fall, but life expectancy keeps rising. Death rates are still declining. The post-industrial period of civilization is depicted in the fourth and final stage, Stage 4. People are healthier and living longer; birth and mortality rates are low, and society is transitioning towards a period of demographic stability.

The Theory of Population

The exponential population growth and the arithmetic increase in the food supply are two concepts in the Malthusian Theory of Population. Thomas Robert Malthus put forth the notion. He thought that proactive and constructive inspections might create a balance between population expansion and food availability.

Major elements of Malthusian theory

  1. Food Supply and Population: According to the Malthusian theory, population increases in a geometrical manner. At this speed, the workforce would double in 25 years. Nevertheless, there is an arithmetic increase in the food supply. The amount of food available grows more slowly than the population. In other words, there won’t be enough food in a few years. A growing population is indicated by the food supply shortfall.
  2. Population Control: Disequilibrium arises when the pace of population growth exceeds the capacity of the food supply. People will thus not have access to even enough food for survival. Due to a scarcity of food, many will perish. Malthus referred to the occurrence of adversities like diseases, wars, hunger, famines, and other natural disasters as “positive checks.” Contrarily, there are artificial checks referred to as preventative checks.
  3. Positive Checks: The environment has its mechanisms for controlling the population’s growth. It raises the population to the level at which food is readily accessible. Starvations, earthquakes, hurricanes, diseases, wars, etc. are examples of positive checks. When population expansion becomes out of control, nature becomes more active.
  4. Preventive measures: like delayed marriage, self-control, and simplicity of life serve to balance the expansion of the population and the availability of food. These procedures not only limit population increase but also have the potential to avert the disastrous results of positive checks.


On the basis of the following observations, the Malthusian theory was criticized:

  • The population was growing quickly in Western Europe. The availability of food had also grown during the same period as a result of technological advancements.
  • Food production has frequently expanded faster than population growth. For instance, in the US, 2% of the population is employed in the agriculture industry. Nevertheless, the GDP as a whole exceeds $14 trillion.
  • According to Malthus’s thesis, the lack of available land is one of the factors contributing to the world’s food shortage. However, as globalization has accelerated, there is no more food available in more places.
  • Malthus did not offer estimates for either the geometric expansion of the population or the arithmetic growth of the population. It was claimed that the growth rate does not support Malthus’ theory.