Malthusian Theory



Malthusian theory is a speculative theory of demographic change. It postulates that continued population growth will eventually outstrip resources. Once this happens, the death rate will climb, passing the birth rate. The population will then begin to shrink. The population will continue to shrink until it reaches a size that can be sustained by existing resources.

Key Points

  • Malthusian Theory
    • Human population grows faster than resources available →  global resource (food) shortage → higher death rate than birth rate → population shrinks to sustainable level 
      • This is speculation - some countries have declining populations with lower birth rates than death rates (e.g. Japan, Sweden), but this is due to factors other than Malthusian Theory 


For example, the world has limited amounts of food. If the number of people that need to eat food grows high enough, not everyone will be able to eat. If this happens, the death rate will climb until it passes the birth rate. The population will then shrink until it can be sustained by the remaining supply of food.