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The Malthusian population theory is the outcome of an essay titled “An essay on the principle of population” written in 1798 by Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, an Anglican clergyman, and a well-known political economist. The essay he wrote was influenced greatly by the rate at which the population in Europe at that time was growing at a very fast rate.

The Main Features of Malthusian Theory

The main views or features of Malthusian theory about population are:

  1. That population was growing in a geometric progression such as 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc. while food production or supply was growing at an arithmetic progression such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. It means that the population doubles every 25 years.
  2. That there is a tendency for the population to grow beyond the food available to them
  3. Population always increases when the means of subsistence increase, unless prevented by some powerful checks.
  4. That there are two types of checks which can keep the population on a level with the means of subsistence. They are negative and positive checks.
  5. That the checks can be war, disease, epidemics, and famine.
  6. That population is essentially limited by the means of subsistence

In other words, the size of the population is determined by the availability of food. The greater the food production, the greater the size of the population which can be sustained. The check of deaths caused by want of food and poverty would limit the maximum possible population.

Demerit/Events that have Proved Malthusian Theory Wrong

Developments or events that have rendered Malthusian theory wrong or irrelevant in the present day is found in developed countries such as England, America, and Japan, etc. These developments include:

  1. Development of technical knowledge and mechanization in agriculture: The development of advanced technology equipment has helped to expand the sector which creates an increase in the food supply.
  2. Changes in social attitude: Changes in family size and family planning or birth control in these countries
  3. Industrial revolution: The industrial revolution especially in Europe, also changed the idea of land as a fixed factor of production
  4. Medical improvement: Medical improvement by way of efficient health care services also enables people to live longer, therefore proving the Malthus theory wrong.
  5. Opening of new colonies: The opening of new colonies like America, Canada, Australia etc. provide the necessary land for human habitation.
  6. Interdependency of nations: The interdependency of nations for goods and services available in large quantities as a result of international trade.
  7. Movement of people overtime: People moving from one country to another.
  8. Assumption is based on Britain and not the entire world

Advantages/Development or Events That Have Proved Malthusian Theory Right

Developments or events that proved Malthusian theory right or valid are found in developing countries in Asia, Africa and even in the present-day situation in Nigeria.  The events are as follows:

  1. Negative attitude: Negative attitudes like the practice of polygamy, giving birth to many children, etc. have made the population of many developing countries including Nigeria to increase on a daily basis
  2. High population and low food production: The population of many developing countries is growing at a geometric progression while food production is growing at an arithmetical progression.
  3. Difficulties in eradicating poverty: Poverty, which is inherent in a given society according to Malthus, has proved extremely difficult to be wiped out of many poor countries
  4. Poor economic development: Rapid population growth militates against rapid economic development and it grows faster than per capita income. Per capita income is a measure of the amount of money earned per person in a nation or geographic region. Per capita income can be used to determine the average per-person income for an area and to evaluate the standard of living and quality of life of the population.
  5. Fallen standards of living: The standard of living of many developing countries has fallen as a result of an increase in population.
  6. Adopting preventive measures to check such as family planning, late marriage.


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