Digital and Computational Demography

At a Glance Projects Publications Team


Genealogical Approaches to Estimate Demographic Dynamics and the Role of Kin Support in the Context of Armed Conflicts

Diego Alburez-Gutierrez

Detailed Description

This project studies the demographic behavior of a local population during and after an episode of mass violence in the Maya Achi village of Rio Negro in Guatemala. It entails empirical studies that focus on the relationships between excess mortality, fertility, and social support after the Rio Negro Massacres, when almost half of the population was killed in 1982. The project uses a mixed-methods approach combining qualitative data (focus group discussions, in-depth interviews) with quantitative data (obtained from genealogical reconstructions). Primary data were collected in the village, using an innovative data collection method that relies on cross-checked genealogies to reconstruct the demographic history of conflict-affected populations. This research project is the first to explore the short- and long-term effects of mass killings on fertility and mortality in the context of low migration. It is also the first to explore the protective effects of family support in the context of mass killings.

The methodological component is motivated by the difficulties in accessing reliable numerical data on massacre-affected populations. The first publication describes the Extended Genealogy Method (EGM), a novel data collection approach that brings together concepts and methods from anthropology, genealogy, and genetics to reconstruct the demographic history of local populations for which no data are available. The paper shows how the EGM was applied to reconstruct the last 60 years of Rio Negro’s demographic history, producing complete, reliable, and high-quality data appropriate for demographic analysis. This is the main data source for the studies in this project.

A first substantive project component focuses on the fertility behavior of the survivors of the 1982 killings in Rio Negro. It focuses on the variation in fertility outcomes of massacre survivors by age, gender, and exposure to the mass violence. The project also considers the factors driving fertility behavior after mass violence, including the role of the proximate determinants of fertility, family structure, and social pressure.

Another component centers on the role of family support during and after the 1982 Rio Negro Massacres. Did relatives provide life-saving assistance during the mass killings? Did the violent death of family members lead to earlier deaths among the massacre survivors? This project component focuses on the mechanisms linking family support (or its lack) to mortality in the short- and long-term after mass violence.

Research Keywords:

Data and Surveys, Demographic Change, Intergenerational Relationships, Life Course

Region keywords:



Alburez-Gutierrez, D.:
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2021-003. (2021)    
Alburez-Gutierrez, D.:
Demographic Research 40:23, 627–656. (2019)    
Leone, T.; Alburez-Gutierrez, D.; Ghandour, R.; Coast, E.; Giacaman, R.:
Conflict and Health 13:36, 1–15. (2019)    
Alburez-Gutierrez, D.:
London: London School of Economics and Political Science. (2018)
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.