Major Elements of the Malthusian Theory:

1. Population and Food Supply:

Malthus explained that the population grows in geometrical progression. It increases in order of 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32 and so on.

“The repeated criticism of the Malthusian Theory proves its originality and truth”-Prof. Clark.

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. This is because of the operation of the Law of Diminishing Returns in food production.

In simple words, food supply increases at a slower rate than population. This means that there will be shortage of food sooner or later. Thus, wherever there is shortage of food, it shows excessive population.

2. Checks on Population:


According to Prof. Malthus, a disequilibrium situation arises when the rise in population is more than the rate of increase in growth of food supply. This is on account of higher rate of growth of population than that of food. As a result, many people will not get even subsistence food.

They will die due to the lack of the minimum subsistence food for them. In their struggle, they are subjected to civil wars, starvation, famines, epidemics, floods and other natural calamities etc. Malthus called these calamities as positive checks. On the other hand, there are preventive measures which are man-made checks. However, these two types of measures i.e. natural or positive checks and preventive checks are explained below.

Malthusian Theory of Population

3. Natural or Positive Checks:

The nature has its own checks to control the increasing population and it brings the level of population to the level of available food-supply. These natural checks are famines, epidemics, wars, earthquakes, floods etc. Here, it must be remembered that these checks are applied by nature itself when man fails to check the excessive growth of population through its own efforts.

4. Preventive Checks:


According to Malthus, preventive checks help to diminish the rate of growth of population and brings it in line with food supply. The preventive checks are: simple living, late marriage, self restraint. These two measures can go a long way to control population and check the operation of destructive positive checks.

Is Malthusian theory Applicable to India?

Since India is an over populated country and all the features hinted at by Malthus are found in such countries, therefore its applicability is almost at true factor.

The following points high-light the facts:

(1) India’s population is rapidly increasing at a rate of 2.3% per annum.


(2) India is facing food shortage even today in-spite of the fact that it has experienced Green Revolution. In 1997, Indian Government is planning to import about 2 million tons of food grains.

(3) Standard of living is another indicator. Indians have a poor standard of living as compared to the people of other nations. About 39% of the people are below poverty line.

(4) Life expectancy is also poor in India. Average life of an Indian is around 60 years which is quite low as compared to other nations.

(5) Birth rate in India is as high as 30 per thousand. This is quite high. No other nation is facing the problem of such a high birth rate. Preventive checks (family planning) are not much popular.

(6) Death rate is also as high as 11 per thousand. It shows that natural calamities like floods, diseases, hunger and squalor are not under full control.

(7) Marriage is a universal phenomenon. Marshall recommended self restraints, celibacy, late marriages etc. to control population. In India, early marriage is a social evil. Hence high growth of population.

To conclude we can say that Malthus’ principle finds its roots in the Indian economy. Extra-ordinary emphasis on family planning measures for birth control in Indian Planning is a clear proof of the ‘Malthusian truth’.

Importance of the Theory:

Despite the criticism of Malthusian Theory as pointed out above, there are certain elements of truth which cannot be ignored. This theory holds good in underdeveloped countries like India, China, Pakistan and Indonesia.

However, its main points of favour are discussed below:


1. As there is strong desire for reproduction in all individuals, population is bound to increase rapidly if the preventive measures are not adopted to control the population.

2. Malthus’ version is true if the people do not adopt preventive checks to reduce the birth rate, then it will be kept down by nature through positive measures. History is the witness that in countries with excessive population, thousands die every year due to natural calamities.

3. The Malthusian Theory of Population has a special attraction to backward and poor countries who are over-populated.


After studying importance and shortcomings of the Malthusian Theory, we can say that the theory is still valid in modern times. According to the American Economist, Prof. Clark. “The repeated criticism of the Malthusian Theory proves its originality and truth”.


This theory has come out true in the underdeveloped countries of Asia and Africa. Even some of the leading economists of the world like Marshall, Ely, Taussig, Patten, Walker and Clark observed, “The Malthusian Theory has remained appropriate and undestroyed in the process of controversy.” In short, Malthus may have stated the partial truth, nobody can deny it.