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The Second Demographic Transition: A Review and Appraisal


Zaidi, Batool & Morgan, S. Philip (2017). The Second Demographic Transition: A Review and Appraisal. Annual Review of Sociology, 43, 473-492. PMCID: PMC5548437


References to the second demographic transition (SDT) concept/theoretical framework have increased dramatically in the last two decades. The SDT predicts unilinear change toward very low fertility and a diversity of union and family types. The primary driver of these changes is a powerful, inevitable, and irreversible shift in attitudes and norms in the direction of greater individual freedom and self-actualization. First, we describe the origin of this framework and its evolution over time. Second, we review the empirical fit of the framework to major changes in demographic and family behavior in the U.S., the West, and beyond. As has been the case for other unilinear, developmental theories of demographic/family change, the SDT failed to predict many contemporary patterns of change/difference. Finally, we review previous critiques and identify fundamental weaknesses of this perspective, and we provide brief comparisons to selected alternative approaches.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Annual Review of Sociology


Zaidi, Batool
Morgan, S. Philip