Digital and Computational Demography

At a Glance Projects Publications Team

Research Area

Aging and Generational Processes

Increasing longevity and lower and later fertility are reshaping individual life-course trajectories, as well as aggregate population composition around the world. What stages of the life course will lengthen or shorten as years are added to the human lifespan? To what extent will people spend a larger or a smaller fraction of their life in roles such as being a parent, a grandparent, a spouse, or a child? What is the likelihood that parents will bereave their adult children? More broadly, how do demographic forces affect family change? How do societies respond to demographic pressure and technological change? And how will the system of intergenerational transfers of resources be affected? These are some of the questions we address, using a combination of formal demographic methods, simulations, genealogies, register data, and social media data.

A key ambition of this research group is to evaluate how societies can favor successful aging in the context of linked lives, demographic inequalities, and sudden discontinuities. Population aging has often been theorized to be a slow and inevitable process. However, against the backdrop of gradual demographic change, our societies are also experiencing rapid transformations and, in some cases, sudden discontinuities, such as the digital revolution, conflicts, or economic shocks. Both long-term trends and rapid disruptions shape demographic trajectories, have unequal consequences for different demographic groups, and present challenges and opportunities for successful aging. We conceptualize demographic dynamics as a tango of slow and fast change: We study the role of persistent long-term trends as well as sudden disruptions in shaping population aging and its consequences at the individual and aggregate level.

Demographers have studied the role of continuity and disruptions for population processes and their relationship to technology and the economy ever since the birth of the discipline and the work of Thomas Malthus. We present new perspectives related to modern challenges to improve theories of population aging, reveal inequalities at the individual and aggregate level, and ultimately to inform policy interventions.

The current projects are organized around three interrelated clusters:

Longevity and Kin Availability

We develop new methods to estimate and forecast demographic change across countries and over time, with a specific focus on longevity, inequalities in the length of life and in the experience of offspring mortality, and the availability of kinship resources. We want to predict how long we will live, how long our family members will live, and how that lifespan differs based on our individual characteristics and the features of our immediate and extended family.  

Intergenerational Transfers

We study generational resource sharing in the form of both financial and non-monetary (informal care time) transfers. A major goal is to assess the impact of transfers on health, well-being, and survival, and to look at the consequences of global demographic change on patterns of transfers between generations and genders. At the individual level, we link our longevity, the quality of our life, and our overall well-being to the system of transfers that are embedded in our societies. At an aggregate level, we assess the implications of demographic change for transfers and for our economies.

Technology Access over the Life Course

The level of use and the rate of adoption of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) vary by demographic characteristics and across countries, as do the benefits and the extent to which ICTs foster connections and a support network. We assess the differential demographic impact of access and use of digital technologies as well as the implications of their adoption for intergenerational and long-distance contacts. We assess how intergenerational relationships may change as a result of technological progress, with unequal consequences on the well-being of different demographic groups.

Research Keywords:

Ageing, Mortality and Longevity, Demographic Change, Intergenerational Relationships

Region keywords:


Projects of this Research Area

Estimating and Projecting Offspring Mortality over the Life Course for all Countries of the World Project details
Formal Demographic Approaches to the Study of Inequalities in Mortality and Kinship Resources Project details
New Perspectives in Mortality Forecasting Project details
Genealogical Approaches to Estimate Demographic Dynamics and the Role of Kin Support in the Context of Armed Conflicts Project details
Intergenerational Transfers and Demographic Outcomes Project details
Intergenerational Transfers of Informal Care Time across Contexts and Sociodemographic Characteristics Project details
Demographic Differential Uses of Social Media and Social Network Sites Project details
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.