MPIDR Working Paper

Demographic transitions in Europe and the world

Willekens, F. J.

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2014-004, 32 Seiten (März 2014).
Rostock, Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung

Schlagworte: demographic transition


The demographic transition is a universal phenomenon. All regions of the world experience a change from high levels of mortality and fertility to low levels. The onset and pace of the demographic transition vary between regions and countries because of differences in timing of events and conditions that trigger the transition. As a consequence, we observe diverging trends in population growth and ageing around the world. The paper shows that transitions in mortality, fertility and migration have several features in common. Demographic transitions are intertwined with science and technology, the economy, cultural change and social and political processes. The interaction between these processes take place at the level of the individual, not at the population level. The human desire for a long and fulfilling life is the main driver of demographic change. Science and technology provide instruments to control demographic processes but the use of these instruments is conditioned by economic and cultural change. Individuals are more likely to act if they are aware that they can influence the outcome of their action, the outcome is beneficial and they have the instruments to exercise control. The pace of a transition depends on (a) diffusion processes that govern the transmission of values, preferences, norms and practices and (b) inertia in a population due to its composition. Keywords: Demographic transition, path dependence, diffusion, agency, demographic dividends