Malthusian Theory of Population: Introduction and Population and Food Supply

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  • Thomas Robert Malthus
  • English scholar
  • Modern work on population and demography
  • First essay on population - Principle of Population, 1798
  • Disfavored population growth as it is the reason for mass poverty and misery
  • “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power of the Earth to produce subsistence for man.”

Population and Food Supply

  • Geometric growth of population and Arithmetic growth of food supply
  • Unchecked growth of population vs. slower growth of means of subsistence
  • Population increases up to the limit of food supply and prevents any rise in standard of living
  • Population grows in geometrical progression. It increases in order of 2, 4,8, 16, and 32 …
  • At this rate, the given population will grow double itself after 25 years.
  • On the other hand, food supply increases in arithmetic progression. It grows in the order of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,7, 8, and 9 and so on.
  • Law of Diminishing Returns in food production.
  • Food supply increases at a slower rate than population.
  • Shortage of food eventually.
  • Shortage of food depicts excessive population.
Population and Food Supply

Checks on Population

Checks on Population

1. Positive checks

  • Empirical data
  • Not getting the basic minimum
  • Disease, hunger, war, etc.

2. Preventive measures are called as man-made checks.

Depress birth rate – e. g. celibacy and deferred marriage

Malthusian Population Trap

Malthusian Population Trap


  • Food shortages
  • Higher population lives on land where crops could have been grown


  • Mankind can regulate population by late marriage, celibacy
  • Modern demography
  • Emphasis on family planning by Govt. is evident of the ‘Malthusian truth.’
  • Effective for poor, backward and underdeveloped countries
  • “The repeated criticism of the Malthusian Theory proves its originality and truth.” – Clark


Q. 1. Assertion (A) : Coercing people to adopt family planning method has not worked.

Reason (R) : Will of a person alone, created through awakening, can be the effective measure.

a) Both A and R are true, and R is the correct explanation of A.

b) Both A and R are true, but R is not the correct explanation of A.

c) A is true but R is false.

d) A is false but R is true.

e) Both A and R are false.

Ans: (a)

Q. 2. Who opined that population grows an exponential rate while the means of subsistence grows at a linear rate?

(a) Malthus

(b) Marx

(c) Coser

(d) Spencer

Ans. (a)

Q. 3. Conflicts usually emerge when there is social disequilibrium. Who makes us believe that conflicts take place when there is shortage in supply of articles or subsistence?

a) Malthus

b) K. Young

c) K. Davis

d) F. E. Lumby

Ans: (A)





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