Demography is the scientific study of human populations (McDonald, 2014). Demographers study the size, structure, and distribution of human populations. Demographers often use a variety of statistical methods to analyze changes in various subcomponents of human populations, such as births, deaths, or changes in legal status (for example, marriage, divorce, and migration).
Numerous subdisciplines of demography focus on the relationships between the economic, social, cultural, and biological processes influencing a population (Harper, 2018). These subdisciplines include anthropological, economic, family, historical, mathematical, paleo, spatial, and social demography, as well as bio-demography and population studies.
Demographers often make a distinction between basic and applied demography, with the former focused on explaining trends in a population and the latter focused on predicting change (Swanson, Burch, & Tedrow, 1996). Demographers engage in a variety of tasks associated with understanding how population changes over time will affect a wide variety of outcomes. For example, demographers study census data to determine how increases in elderly populations will affect government capacity to fund social security and other programs. Employment opportunities in demography are not limited to government sectors; nonprofit and for-profit organizations hire demographers to understand how population changes will affect their programs, sales, marketing efforts, and other activities.
In Disaster Research
Demography has many applications for hazards and disaster research. Demographers may estimate the number of people impacted by a particular disaster or the extent of vulnerability to disasters within a particular population (Donner & Rodríguez, 2008). Demographers often analyze the impacts that disasters will have on the populations in disaster-prone areas (Schultz & Elliott, 2012).
Demography. (2018). In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 20, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography
Donner, W., & Rodríguez, H. (2008). Population Composition, Migration and Inequality: The Influence of Demographic Changes on Disaster Risk and Vulnerability. Social Forces 87(2), 1089-1114. https://dx.doi.org/10.1353/sof.0.0141
Harper, S. (2018.) Demography: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McDonald, P. (2014). Demography: The Scientific Study of Population. International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. Retrieved August 20, 2018, from https://iussp.org/en/what-demography-peter-mcdonald
Schultz, J. & Elliott, J. R. (2012). Natural Disasters and Local Demographic Change in the United States. Population and Environment 34(3), 293-312. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11111-012-0171-7
Swanson, D. A., Burch, T. K., & Tedrow, L. M. (1996). What Is Applied Demography? Population Research and Policy Review, 15(5-6), 403-418.
CONVERGE is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation, Program on Humans, Disasters, and the Built Environment (Award #1841338). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.