Monday, 13 October 2014

To what extent is the Demographic Transition Model applicable to countries at different stages of economic development? (15 marks)

This is a pretty tricky question so it's important to read it carefully. I decided to make a help sheet breaking down the question as a lot of students struggle with these types of essay questions. 

First of all, here is the mark scheme, you may want to have another look at this later:
Level 1 (1-6 marks)
Describes the Demographic Transition Model (DTM). Refers to strengths and/or weaknesses. General statements.

Level 2 (7-12 marks)
Uses an understanding of the DTM to begin to comment on its applicability to at least two types of country. Use of case study material to supportTentative statements of ‘extent’.

Level 3 (13-15 marks)
Answer is purposeful in relation to task; clear statements of applicability or otherwise. Elements of debate may be present. Explicit statements of ‘extent’.

Next, I have broken down the question and tried to explain what it's asking. Remember, exam technique is EVERYTHING in AS Geography! After that I have written my own examples of thing you might include to give you some ideas of where to start. Please try to think of and research your own examples too, good luck! (p.s. if you do write a really good answer and would like to have it published on this blog please send it to

·        This question is not just asking you to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the DTM, if you do this you can’t get above Level 1, i.e. you will only get a maximum of 6 marks even with lots of detail.

·        It’s important that you ANSWER the question set or you’ll lose a lot of marks. So what exactly is the question asking? Let’s break it down…

Question Part
To What Extent
The question is looking for more than just a yes or no answer. You need to explicitly (i.e. spell it out) say if the model is very applicable, somewhat applicable, applicable in some situations, not at all applicable etc. Don’t just say it is or it isn’t.
Is The Demographic Transition Model
Make sure you understand what this is. The DTM shows what happens to the birth rate, death rate and total population of a country over time. As time passes these 3 indicators change in certain ways and the country becomes more developed.
This word can be defined as ‘applying or capable of being applied; relevant, suitable or appropriate’.  The question is asking if the model fits different countries. Take Australia for example, they have a low birth and death rate BUT a high total population growth rate. Does this fit the model?
To Countries At Different Stages of Economic Development
Here the question is asking you to use several different examples of countries, some rich, some poor and some in-between. E.g. you could look at one very poor country that is supposed to be in stage 1 or 2, one slightly better that could be in stage 3, one developed country that might be in stage 4.

Here are some examples of how you can answer this question:

·        Industrialised countries fit the DTM model very well, after all this is what the model was originally based on. For example the UK experienced a sharp fall in death rate in death rate in the 1700s as vaccinations were discovered and healthcare improved. Later in the 1800s its birth fell as family planning was introduced, just as the model predicts. Small anomalies have occurred such as the post WW2 baby boom, but not enough to offset the overall fit of the model, in fact this can be regarded as one of the fluctuations of stage 4. The model is very useful in explaining historical changes in population change and also predicting what could happen in the future. However, it does not take migration into account meaning the UK’s transition from stage 4 to 5 could be delayed as migration now accounts for a large proportion of UK population growth (54% between 1991 and 2012) as well as impacting on birth rates as migrant communities often have higher fertility rates.

·        Similarly, Australia, the USA and Canada all skipped the early stages of the model completely as their populations grew due to huge volumes of immigration (e.g. 27% of Australia’s population were born in other countries and nearly 50% have parents who were). The DTM however, suggests that population increases by natural change, which is clearly not applicable to these countries even though they are more developed.

·        The model is somewhat applicable to Newly Industrialised Countries such as Singapore and South Korea. Although they progressed through the model much faster than the UK (e.g. Singapore’s ‘Stop At Two’ policy saw the fertility rate fall from 6.5 to only 1.5 children per women in less than 30 years, half that of the UK), the model is still applicable to some extent as its time scales are flexible. It is particularly useful to these rapidly changing countries to help them predict the outcome of their policies and how they can progress to more developed stages of the model. However, the fact that the model does not specifically account for government policies means the model cannot predict their population change accurately.

·        The model is less applicable to less developed countries that often have a much more rapidly falling death rate through the introduction of Western medicines, compared to their birth rate which may remain high for a lot longer than expect due to cultural traditions. Instead of moving to stage 3 they often become stuck in stage 2 of the model.

·        Some less developed countries such as Botswana and Uganda appear to have gone backwards due to the HIV epidemic (which has caused an increase in both birth and death rate) so the model is less applicable to these countries.

·        The model does not account for variations within countries, for example there is a 14 year difference in life expectancy between men and women in the richer west and poorer eastern areas of Sheffield! Therefore the model can be useful for looking at the average indices of an entire country but less applicable on a smaller scale. 

Thanks to for the image

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