What is Demography?
© mathias the dread, Koosinger, suze / photocase.com
Demography is the science of populations. Demographers seek to understand population dynamics by investigating three main demographic processes: birth, migration, and aging (including death). All three of these processes contribute to changes in populations, including how people inhabit the earth, form nations and societies, and develop culture. While most of the discipline’s research focuses on humans, the MPIDR is also committed to the specialized field of biodemography.
Today, there is growing interest among the public in demography, as “demographic change” has become the subject of political debates in many developed countries. Most of these countries have birth rates below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman, and, at the same time, life expectancy has been rising considerably and continues to rise – a development sometimes called “the aging of societies.”
While demography cannot offer political advice on how to tackle demographic change, demographers seek to describe the phenomena related to this change, and to understand their causes. Using reliable data and the statistical processing of these data, modern demographic research embraces many scientific disciplines, including mathematics, economics and other social sciences, geography or biology.
Want to know more?
Selected MPIDR research for the public
The following articles and digests cover actual demographic topics, or provide an overview of the Institute’s research fields, and their meaning for society. The media and the public can also access a selection of MPIDR’s research at the Institute’s press release archive and news archive. More comprehensive articles can be found in the publications section.
Brochure “Familie und Partnerschaft in Ost- und Westdeutschland” (available in German only) (PDF, 3 MB)
Two decades after reunification, Germans in the East and in the West still differ in terms of fertility, family formation, work, and gender equality.
Parenthood: A Long-Term Investment in Happiness
The level of satisfaction felt by young parents decreases with their number of children, but older parents are happier than their childless peers, MPIDR scientist Mikko Myrskylä shows.
In Search of Time Won: About the Future of Aging Societies (PDF, 171 kB)
James Vaupel, founding director of the MPIDR, discusses the future of aging societies and the positive potentials of longer life.
The Quest for the Modern-Day Methuselah (PDF, 743 kB)
Demographers track down people living beyond their 110th birthday to find out what the probability of dying is among the oldest of the old.
Redefining the Biology of Aging (German language only)
Species with long life spans are often no better at withstanding aging than organisms that die much sooner. MPIDR researcher Annette Baudisch proposes a new definition of aging.
Quarterly newsletter “Demografische Forschung aus erster Hand”
Download or subscribe to this German-language quarterly, which features popular science articles on the latest demographic research papers by authors of the MPIDR, the Vienna Institute of Demography, the Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung Wiesbaden and the Rostock Centre for the Study of Demographic Change. www.demografische-forschung.org
Find the latest news and background information on European demography issues at the website of the collaborative network of Europe's leading demographic research centers. www.population-europe.eu
Information for students and teachers
For secondary school students (grades 9-12), the MPIDR and the Max Planck Society have prepared extensive teaching materials under the heading “Bevölkerungsentwicklung in Deutschland.” These materials are available to teachers at FWU – Das Medieninstitut der Länder, and include an educational film intended to serve as an introduction to the field of demography. (Materials are available in German only)
Special GEOMAX demography issues
Download one of the digest issues “Reisen in der Zeitmaschine – womit Demografen in Zukunftrechnen müssen” (PDF, 206 kB) or “Sieht Deutschland bald alt aus? – dem demografischen Wandel auf der Spur” (PDF, 837 kB) (both in German) from the popular science serial “GEO MAX – Neugierig auf Wissenschaft,” published by the Max Planck Society. www.max-wissen.de
Once a year, the MPIDR opens its doors to about a hundred students from schools in the Rostock area, introducing them to the world of demography, and showing them how demography is being studied at the MPIDR. Groups of students tour the Institute, visit its labs, and learn about birth, death, and their own lives. The event is suitable for secondary school students in grades 10 and 11. www.wissenskarawane-mv.de