March 31, 2003 | Press Release

Numbers, data and facts concerning the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock has moved into its new home on the grounds of the former Neptune Shipyard. The official opening of the Institute's new building will take place on March 31, 2003. The Institute conducts basic research and works without commissions.

Interdisciplinary and international research. The MPIDR started work in October 1996. Since then, scientists from Germany and abroad have been working at the MPIDR in Rostock. They have come from 20 different countries, including Germany, Russia, the USA, China, Austria, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, Japan, and Scandinavia. The research is interdisciplinary in nature. Demographers, mathematicians, statisticians, sociologists, economists, biologists, anthropologists, physicians, psychologists, political scientists, and geographers all work together under one roof.

The Institute currently consists of two scientific divisions. The research program "Aging and Longevity" is headed by Prof. James W. Vaupel and the program "Fertility and Family Dynamics" by Prof. Jan M. Hoem. A total of 120 people work at the Institute. Seventeen men and nine women work as scientists. There are 39 people working in the areas of research support, library, technology, and administration. In addition, there are currently 16 doctoral students, nine of whom come from abroad, and six post-docs, five of whom come from abroad.

Further, numerous scientists from around the world are working as guests at the Institute. They are involved in research projects or come to hold guest lectures for the Rostock Demographic Colloquium, which was initiated by the MPIDR. Finally, the Institute employs a number of student assistants from the University of Rostock, some of whom are advised by members of the Institute in work on their master's dissertations.

The International Max Planck Research School for Demography. In cooperation with the University of Rostock and further European universities and research facilities, the MPIDR has organized this unique forum, which offers a diverse range of advanced courses and scientific advising that no single institute could provide. Under the patronage of the Research School, doctoral students from Germany and abroad are given the opportunity to prepare for their doctorate under excellent conditions for conducting research and for studying. In the winter semester 2002/2003, there were 20 external doctoral students from ten countries registered at the Institute's Research School.

The new building. In the Institute's new building there will eventually be up to 140 people working on a total 3,000 square meters of main usable floor space. The Institute's own laboratories are located here as well. The building is spacious and provides for optimal natural light. It consists of two four-story components that stand parallel to one another and are connected by a middle section flooded with light, in which the main staircase and the seminar rooms are located. The Copenhagen architect Henning Larsen, who won the competition for building the Institute, designed, planned and oversaw the construction of the new building. AS-Plan, Kaiserslautern/Potsdam, was responsible for the project. Approximately 90 percent of the construction was carried out by firms from the region. Total construction costs came to just over 11 million Euros. The government of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern contributed approximately 1.5 million Euros.

Demography in Germany. The field of demography has been met with many reservations in Germany since 1945, due to the fact that several German demographers were actively involved in population politics during the time of National Socialism. For this reason the subject has been taught at German universities up to now only to a very limited extent. Chairs for demography are still the exception, and only a limited number of institutes are able to conduct demographic research in a regular manner. Among these are the Federal Institute for Population Research in Wiesbaden, the Institute for Population Research and Social Politics in Bielefeld, and the chair for Population Science at the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Cooperation with the University of Rostock. At the same time the MPIDR was founded, two university chairs involving demography and a course of study in demography were established in the department of economics and social sciences of the University of Rostock. Both directors of the Max Planck Institute are affiliated with the department as non-faculty members. In addition, one of the research group heads, Prof. Anatoli Yashin, is affiliated with the mathematics department of the University of Rostock. The MPIDR plans to found the Rostock Center for the Study of the Consequences of Demographic Change, and it expects to cooperate closely with the university on this.

Main focuses of research at the MPIDR

"Aging and longevity". This research program is involved in discovering the factors that determine aging, longevity, and mortality. A main focus is placed on mortality trends in old age, since medical and economic progress have meant a shift in death trends in recent decades towards advanced ages. Given the general rise in life expectancy and the increasing numbers of elderly, much interest is focused on general trends and differences in the aging process and in general developments involving longevity and mortality in different countries. We are investigating which social and biological factors have an influence on longevity and how these factors are characterized by specific conditions in the various individual countries.

If one wishes to be able to predict future mortality developments and the demographic challenges arising from them, then one must also look to the past. For this reason, methods of determining age based on archeological findings need to be improved so that one can obtain more accurate information regarding life expectancy in earlier societies and cultures. A group of anthropologists, biologists, and demographers is currently working on a method of determining an individual's age on the basis of annual rings in the teeth. They are taking a close look at the assumption that the quality of the deposits to be found in teeth might provide information on situations and periods of stress in the lives of people in earlier societies and cultures.

"Fertility, family dynamics and population developments". In this research program, developments in the area of family formation and childbearing in today's Europe are being investigated. The starting-point for these investigations is the fact that in all highly developed societies - most noticeably in Europe - birthrates are falling and new family forms such as long-term partnerships without marriage, single-parent families and step-families are becoming more and more common. Although there are pronounced regional differences in fertility and family-formation behavior in Europe - for example between eastern and western Germany, northern and southern Italy, the Scandinavian countries, as well as between northern, central, southern, and eastern European countries - there are some generally valid trends. It is the goal of the researchers working in this interdisciplinary program to investigate and explain forms and processes of these developments and to determine the decisive factors behind them.

One is attempting to determine from a demographic, economic, sociological, political and gender-specific perspective how important social, economic, cultural and welfare-related influences are - both in and of themselves and in their respective interplay with each other - and how value systems and changes in values affect family formation and childbearing behavior. The main focus is currently on the following topics: (1) the parallelism of demographic processes in the life course; (2) connections between institutional and political structural conditions on the one hand and generative behavior on the other; (3) the influence of social contexts on fertility and family dynamics. In addition, (4) an independent research group of young scientists called "Population, Economy and Environment" is analyzing the effects of changes in demographic processes and structures on economic- and environment-related conditions.

The Max Planck Society. In the Max Planck institutes, leading scientists and scholars conduct basic research in the natural, biological, and social sciences as well as in the humanities. The Max Planck Society, which consists of approximately 80 institutes, research facilities, laboratories and working groups, promotes new avenues of research, thereby aiming to complement the work of universities. The Max Planck Society receives approximately 95 percent of its funding from the federal government and the German Länder. The remaining five per cent come from membership subscriptions, donations, and the Society's own returns. All research results are published and freely accessible.


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The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.