Centre for Economic Demography

Lund University School of Economics and Management

The Demographic Transition

The demographic transition is the major change in human history from high mortality and high fertility in preindustrial society to low mortality and low fertility in modern industrial society. It is a complex phenomenon with several simultaneous processes regarding migration, marriage and family formation, childbearing and health and mortality. Since the mortality decline started earlier than the fertility decline everywhere, with a few exceptions, the transition created rapid population growth. The demographic transition is intimately connected to industrialization and urbanization. Together they meant changed incentives for family formation and childbearing, new moral codes and secularization, better knowledge about health and disease and a sustained increase in living standards, thus having a major impact on mortality and life expectancy in the long term.

Researchers at CED have been working in this area for almost four decades. Research started out focusing mainly on aggregate patterns of fertility and mortality and how they were connected to the changing economy, but has in more recent times dealt mainly with micro-level aspects of the transition. Much of the research has been based on data from the Scanian Economic Demographic Database (SEDD), developed by CED.

In this research area we have participated in a long-term comparative project initiated by the CED, the EurAsia Project on Population and Family History (EAP). Results have been published in a special book series by MIT Press. We have also initiated a new comparative project with colleagues from the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Canada and the US to study the modern period, a EurAmerica Project, that focuses on the fertility decline.