Malthusian Population Theory

Discipline: Economics

Named after English economist the Reverend THOMAS ROBERT MALTHUS (1766-1834), who believed that population would increase at a geometric rate and the food supply at an arithmetic rate.

This disharmony would lead to widespread poverty and starvation which would only be checked by natural occurrences such as disease, high infant mortality, famine, war or moral restraint.

Malthusian population theory was eventually dismissed for its pessimism and failure to take into account technological advances in agriculture and food production.

In biology, the theory asserts that the reproductive potential of virtually any organism or SPECIES greatly exceeds the earth's capacity to support all its possible offspring. Consequently, species diversity is preserved through mechanisms that keep population sizes in check, such as predation.

Also see: demographic transition, secular stagnation theory

T R Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (London, 1798); A Chase, The Legacy of Malthus (New York, 1977)


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