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Demography. Definition, Elements And Their Types

Demography. Definition, Elements And Their Types

Demography is the social discipline that statistically studies the human population, its trends, and its quality of life and serves to know the total population, the distribution of the population and its economic, cultural, and social characteristics, as well as its patterns of movement and behavior

Next, several definitions of demography, the basic elements of this discipline, its types, and its importance to other social sciences will be presented.

Definition of demography according to various authors

Demographics. Statistical study of a human community referred to a certain moment or its evolution. (Royal Spanish Academy)

Demography is the science whose object is the study of human populations, treating, from a mainly quantitative point of view, their dimension, their structure, their evolution, and their general characteristics. (UN)

According to (Livi, p.10), demography studies those processes that determine the formation, conservation, and disappearance of populations. Such processes, in their most aggregated form, are those of fertility, mortality, and mobility.

For ( Maldonado, p.11), Demography is a science whose object is a man considered in all the aspects of his reality: as a member of a community that he enters by the mere fact of being born and from which he withdraws when it dies. This reality has different angles.


The man who is the object of demography is a living and complex being, that is: social, political, historical, economic, and moral. In this sense, it can be said that demography is an anthropological science, but not a chapter of anthropology, since it considers man as a community, not individually.

Demographic analysis refers to the knowledge of the behavior of the components of the population: the birth rate, mortality, and migration, as well as their changes and consequences; to the factors that determine the changes and the period required for those changes to occur.


Population studies are concerned with the relationships between population changes and other types of social, economic, political, biological, genetic, and geographic variables. (Valdes, p.75)

In the following series of video lessons, Professor Javier Morales, from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche, introduces the vast subject of demography, presenting a definition, the factors of demographic dynamics, and data sources, and some tools such as Lexis diagrams and population studies, among other topics.

Basic elements of demographics

For Lara and Mateos (p.264) the basic elements of demography are the following:

  • Volume. Several people in a population.
  • Distribution. Ordering of the population in space at a given time, which can be geographically, or between various types of residential areas.
  • Structure. Distribution of the population between age groups and sex.
  • Change. Growth or decline of the total population or in some of its structural units, the essential components of change are births, deaths, and migrations.

Demographic data sources

There are two types of data sources in demography ( Maldonado Cruz, p.15):

  1. Those that are based on censuses. Population censuses and demographic surveys.
  2. Those that are based on registers. Administrative records and vital statistics.

What is demographics for?

Martin and Chej (p. 2) indicate that demography serves to know:

  • The entire population.
  • The geographic distribution of that population.
  • The distribution by age and sex.
  • The economic and cultural characteristics.
  • The movement of the population.
See also  Philosophy:Definition And Characteristics

Population Aspects and Demography

For its part, ECLAC (p. 15) states that demography focuses on five aspects of the human population:

  1. Size
  2. Distribution
  3. Composition
  4. Dynamic,
  5. Socioeconomic determinants and consequences of population change.

Population size is simply the number of people living in a place at a given time.

Distribution refers to how the population is dispersed in different places in geographic space at a given time.


Its composition refers to the number of people by sex, age, and other “demographic” categories.

The components of demographic dynamics, in the strictest sense, are births, deaths, and migration.

A more inclusive definition can also consider the marital situation as a process that affects births and the formation and dissolution of households, and illness or morbidity as processes that affect mortality.

The study of the interrelationship of these factors and the composition by age and sex constitute formal subfields of demography.


Finally, and beyond those factors that directly influence demographic change, there are the acquired social and economic characteristics, which appear both as causes and consequences of the modification of the basic characteristics of demographic dynamics and population change.

ECLAC adds (p. 16) that knowledge of the size of the population, its distribution, and mobility, its structural composition, and changes in its size and structure is highly relevant as support for decision-making, fundamentally for the planning of public policies that seek to promote an improvement in the quality of life by the needs of society in a given region or territory.

It is important, therefore, to maintain and increase research and knowledge about the sociodemographic reality, contributing to the generation of continuous and complete information systems.

One of the main reasons for studying demography is that population growth can, if not create, multiply, and magnify a wide variety of social, economic, and political problems.


Problems Solved by Demography

According to the Department of Statistics and Operations Research of the University of Granada, some of the most significant problems for which demography is used are:

  • Hunger: no basic resource is necessary to increase food production (water, energy, land, fertilizers) can be considered abundant today. Consequently, food production has lagged behind demand in virtually all geographic regions.
  • Pollution: As the human population has grown, so has its ability to alter the planet’s ecosystem. Overpopulation, the tourist boom, industrial development, and maritime irresponsibility threaten today to trigger unprecedented climatic events.
  • Inflation – occurs when demand exceeds supply.
  • Housing: as a consequence of the expansion in the demand for housing, the cost of land and the materials necessary for its construction has risen above the purchasing power of many of the more than four billion inhabitants of the world today.
  • Income: With the economic slowdown that occurred in most of the world in the 1970s, population growth may nullify any possible economic growth in some countries.
  • Energy: each person in the world’s population has a greater need for energy to prepare food, obtain clothing and shelter, and sustain economic life.
  • Unemployment: According to economists’ estimates, under current technological conditions, countries experiencing a population growth rate of 3 percent would need to achieve an economic growth rate of 9 percent simply to manage to maintain the current level of employment.
  • Illiteracy: in countries of Asia, America, and Africa the number of illiterates is increasing, since the population is increasing faster than the construction and equipping of schools.
  • Individual freedom: as more people share the space and resources of our planet, an increasing number of rules and regulations are required to ensure individual use of resources, for the common good.
See also  History Of Statistics. Origin And Evolution

Demographic Types

Lara and Mateos (p.262)  relate the following types of demography:

  • Static. Study of the absolute number of individuals that make up a given population, divided into categories according to their status, age, sex, profession, intellectual conditions, etc., and the relationships that exist between the various categories.
  • Dynamics. It studies the internal movements that come from birth and mortality and the external ones that have their origin in immigration and emigration.
  • General. Deduce from the above data the laws or principles to which the population obeys and its variations.

Likewise, it identifies the following disciplines within the field of action of demography:

  • descriptive. It deals with the volume, geographical distribution, structure, and development of human populations, relying mainly on demographic statistics, which is the application of general statistics to the study of human populations.
  • Theoretical. Also called pure demography, it considers populations from a general and abstract point of view, studying the formal relationships between the different demographic phenomena.
  • Quantitative. It is called this way because of the importance that is attributed to the numerical aspect of the phenomena and to distinguish it from the branches that are expressed below.
  • Economic. It is the branch that deals with populations about economic phenomena.
  • Social. It is the part that refers to social phenomena.

The Department of Statistics and Operational Research of the University of Granada makes the following classification:

  • Qualitative: it is concerned with the physical and intellectual characteristics of people.
  • Quantitative: tries to highlight the quantitative aspects.
  • Economic: it is concerned with the relationship and involvement between population and economy.
  • Historical: it is fundamentally concerned with the reconstruction of unemployed populations.
  • Mathematics: by definition demography is discrete, but the continuous study of Mathematical Analysis has given a great impetus to the development of research, especially in the Mathematical Theory of Population and the relationships between the components.
  • Medical: it is fundamentally concerned with studying the medical body from the influence without having the state of well-being and development for the resolution of problems associated with health.
  • Potential: develops, above all, scenarios that simulate future behavior of populations based on hypotheses established for life expectancy.
  • Pure: designates the part of demography that is interested in the formal relations between the different demographic phenomena and events: mortality-death and fertility-birth.
  • Social: demographic policies.

what is population

Commonly, the world population is used to designate all the inhabitants of a given territory, as well as to designate a part of the said population (eg, population of school age, population of marriageable age), although in this case, it is more appropriate to speak of underpopulation.

People often speak of the population not to indicate the whole itself but the number of inhabitants that make it up. (UN)

The population is understood as a set of individuals, constituted stably, linked by reproductive ties, and identified by territorial, political, legal, ethnic, or religious characteristics.

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The meaning of population is quite elastic; this concept encompasses both small groups of a few hundred people isolated for geographical, religious reasons, etc., which despite their small size manage to ensure their own reproduction and survival, as well as large nations with several hundred million inhabitants.  (Livi, pp. 9 and 10)


Demographics and marketing

The demographic environment is one of the variables that affect the marketing macroenvironment, being considered of great importance since it studies the population that makes up the markets. Demographic trends and events are analyzed by firms to anticipate the possible behavior of markets and consumption in the future and to understand the causes of past marketing actions.

For example, a change in the age structure of the population that constitutes a market can completely change the product life cycle, forcing companies to keep their research and development departments active in such a way that consumers are always satisfied.

Demography is also involved in the market segmentation process since through it the characteristics of a certain market are established in terms of age, sex, race, location, and others for which the analysis and demographic studies are responsible.

Demographics and macroeconomics

Economic demography constitutes a fundamental piece of macroeconomic analysis since through it the behaviors and characteristics of populations are evidenced both transversally (on specific dates) and longitudinally (over time).


  • ECLAC. Demographic data Scope, limitations, and evaluation methods. ECLAC – UNFPA. 2014
  • Department of Statistics and Operations Research. The University of Granada. Definition of demographics. Available at: https://www.ugr.es/~fabad/definicionDemografia.pdf
  • Department of Statistics and Operations Research. The University of Granada. Why study demography? Available at: http://www.ugr.es/~fabad/porQue.pdf
  • Lara and Mateos, Rosa Maria. Medicine and culture, Plaza and Valdés Editores, 1994.
  • Livi Bacci, Massimo. Introduction to demography, Editorial Ariel, 1993, p.
  • Maldonado Cruz, Pedro. Demography: Fundamental Concepts and Techniques, Plaza and Valdés Editores, 2006.
  • Martin Martin, Cristina and Chej Gavilan, Ruben Javier. Epidemiological surveillance in oral health. Editorial Vertex, 2008
  • UN, Multilingual Demographic Dictionary
  • Lopez, Maria. Handbook of demography. National University of the Coast, 2014.
  • Royal Spanish Academy,  Dictionary of the Spanish language
  • Valdes, Luz Maria. Population challenge of the third millennium, UNAM, 2000.



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