We explain what demography is, what this science studies and how it is classified. Also, what are its characteristics, uses and importance.

Demography tries to describe the processes of human societies.

What is demographics?

The demographics are the science that studies populations. It aims to understand the dynamics that determine and accompany three fundamental elements of human life in society: birth (fertility), migration (emigration and immigration) and aging (which includes mortality).

The name of this discipline comes from the Greek words demos (“town”) and graphos (“writing”). It is the description (often statistical) of the processes of human societies, such as their dimension, structure and general characteristics.

This knowledge, organized and represented in mathematical terms, serves to nourish other social sciences and disciplines. In other cases, it supports them in their approaches to human life and its complexities.

See also: Anthropology

history of demography

Thomas Robert Malthus - demography
Thomas Robert Malthus made great contributions to modern demography.

The historian is assumed to be the father of demography, Arab humanist and sociologist Abenkhaldún (Ibn Khaldun), of Tunisian origin (1332-1406).

It was the first, that is known, that analyzed data obtained from populations of al-Andalus to draw scientific conclusions.

Later, English John Graunt (1620-1674) founded biostatistics and put demography into practice as a modern science, with its Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality from 1662.

Another icon of the birth of modern demography was the publication of Essay on the principle of population by Thomas Robert Malthus. There he warned about the future problems that humanity would face if it continued on its historical demographic path. His predictions were fulfilled although on different dates.

You may be interested:  Meaning of Relative Values

What does demography study?

The object of study of demography are human populations: its configuration, conservation and eventual disappearance. For this, it is based on the principles of fertility, mortality and mobility: births, deaths and migrations.

From these three fundamental elements, any human population will yield susceptible data to feed a demographic study. The objective is to obtain scientific conclusions from these data.

demographic types

Static demography studies populations at a given moment in time.

Two basic types of demography are recognized, depending on their approach:

  • static demographics. Study of human populations at a given moment in time, taking into account their size (number of people), territory (place of residence) and structure (composition in terms of sex, age, nationality, language spoken, etc.)
  • dynamic demographics. Study human populations from an evolutionary perspective, that is, over various periods of time. It records the way in which its size, territory and structure change as a result of processes such as migration, education, fertility, etc.

population concept

The population reproduces itself biologically and culturally.

One of the key concepts to understand demography is population, which refers to a stable set of individuals linked to each other by reproductive dynamics. The members of this group share the same territorial, religious, cultural, ethnic and/or legal identity.

This means that a population is such if reproduces itself. Said reproduction is not only biological (reproduction of individuals) but also cultural, that is to say, it preserves said identity characteristics more or less intact.

main theories

There are three main demographic theories regarding human behavior:

  • The demographic transition theory. The classical theory proposes that demographic change is a continuous process whose three edges are birth, mortality and migration. The control of these variables allows societies to reduce the impact of four major demographic risks of any society: high mortality (which causes a decrease in the number of individuals), high fertility (which causes lack of population control), accelerated demographic growth (which exhausts the available resources) and the structure would be young (which leads to dependency relationships).
  • The theory of the second demographic transition. This concept, coined in 1986, explains the patterns of family behavior in Western nations that have low mortality and fertility rates (old populations). This supposes the increase in singleness, the delay of marriage, the postponement of the first child, the expansion of births outside of marriage, the rise in divorces and the diversification of existing family modes.
  • The theory of the productive revolution. This theory is critical of the postulates of the Demographic Transition Theory, and aspires to propose a paradigm shift in the analysis of populations. He understands the future of societies as systems, and rejects the warnings of depletion and population weakness that were proposed in classical theory.
You may be interested:  Omnivorous Animals

Analysis mechanisms

Censuses, surveys and consultations provide statistical data.

Already in the Roman Empire, Tithing and other citizen participation mechanisms were used as an instrument to measure the composition of the people. The figure of the censor was involved: the person in charge of surveying the population and making inventories (censuses) of it to obtain relevant data from large populations.

This practice is still preserved: censuses, surveys and consultations feed statistical data into demographic tables. These data are represented by graphs and always need to be presented with an explanatory context in order to draw conclusions regarding the behavior of the societies studied.

In some cases, the conclusions also have predictive values: allow assumptions to be made about where the population fate will point, given current trends. Of course, catastrophic events such as wars or cataclysms cannot be foreseen in this way.

population density

The population density is one of the most common measurements of demographic studies. It is a figure that expresses the number of people who live in a certain region: a city, a province, a country or a continent. This is normally expressed in inhabitants per square kilometer of territory (hab/kmtwo).

birth rate

Demographics - birth rate
The more children born per year, the younger the population will be.

Another major demographic indicator refers to the number of infants born in a given period of time, in a population. The higher the birth rate, that is, the more children are born per year, the younger the population.

If this rate exceeds the mortality rate, then the population tends to grow, that is, it will increase its number of inhabitants (and therefore its volume of necessary goods). Conversely, if the death rate exceeds the birth rate, the population progressively loses size.

You may be interested:  What is the Parliamentary Monarchy (and Its Characteristics)

Mortality rate

It is the number of deaths, whatever the causes, in a given period. The mortality rate can be specific, such as infant mortality or the one that makes a statistic about its causes.

It is generally used to find out how much and at what age members of a population die. If the mortality rate is high, the causes must generally be traced: they may be due to a high or young incidence of diseases, situations of war or a shortage of essential goods (such as food).

strategic importance

Demography helps to understand the migratory dynamics of a population.

demography is a science of vital importance for the planning of countries and regions. By understanding how its population behaves, many of the solutions to problems can be determined and strategic decisions can be made in time to improve the lives of communities.

For example, in the area of ​​public health and epidemiology, understand the migratory dynamics of a population, as well as their constitution (average age, physical characteristics, etc.) is vital to take the appropriate measures in terms of preventive health policies. It is even used to plan food production.


  • “Demographics” on Wikipedia.
  • “Demographic characteristics” at the Catholic University of Santiago de Guayaquil.
  • “What is demographics?” in Ssociólogos, Sociology and Current Affairs Blog.
  • “What is demographics?” in International Union for the Scientific Study of Population.
  • “Demography” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Would you like to share it?