Digital and Computational Demography

At a Glance Projects Publications Team


Demographic Change, Climate Change, and Energy Demand

Conducted by Emilio Zagheni; Jorge Cimentada; in Collaboration with Hossein Estiri (Harvard University, Cambridge, USA)

Detailed Description

Energy demand, climate change, and demographic change are among the most important and interconnected drivers of societal change. Energy demand is constantly increasing despite technological advances that improve energy efficiency. Much of this increase is due to social and economic dynamics, as the world population is aging, average income is rising, and homes are getting larger. Our global climate is changing too, which creates additional burdens on energy supply and even increases the demand for energy.

An aging world population is considered a potentially important driver of the increase in energy demand. This is because energy demand at the residential level drives a large proportion of the overall demand for energy and because older people can have different patterns of energy demand due to a number of biological, economic, and housing-related factors. However, it is not clear how these factors contribute to differences in energy-demand patterns by age. A deeper understanding of the role of age as a micro-driver of energy demand thus would enable us to gain deeper insights into the relationship between climate change, energy, and population policies, and it would make such policies more effective.

It is difficult to isolate the effect of age in determining residential energy demand, given the complexities involved in the relationship between age, other sociodemographic factors, housing, and climate. A lack of individual-level data on energy demand is an additional factor that hinders evaluating the role that age might play. We thus need to develop innovative methodologies to estimate demand at the individual level, and to go beyond period perspectives, to fully trace changes over the life course of individuals followed over time.

This project seeks to develop a statistical method for estimating profiles of energy demand for individuals, using household-level survey data. Moreover, it aims to identify the direct link between age and energy demand, after accounting for the potential impact on energy demand of confounding variables, such as sociodemographic factors, housing characteristics, cultural determinants, local/regional/national institutional settings, and local/regional climatic conditions. The overarching goal is to develop a new perspective at the intersection of population and climate change sciences that accounts for demographic dynamics and housing policies.

We also want to develop methodological approaches to visualize demographic change, in particular for historical demography. Lexis surfaces are widely used to analyze demographic trends across periods, ages, and birth cohorts. However, these plots usually do not convey information about population size. The project thus includes proposals for developing enhanced Lexis surfaces that incorporate a visual representation of population size in the classic Lexis diagram. This improves conventional depictions of period, age, and cohort trends in demographic developments of populations and can be applied to any historical indicator, including energy consumption. 

Research Keywords:

Demographic Change, Internal Migration, Housing, Urbanisation, Life Course, Statistics and Mathematics

Region keywords:

USA, World


Cimentada, J.; Klüsener, S.; Riffe, T.:
Demographic Research 42:6, 149–164. (2020)    
Estiri, H.; Zagheni, E.:
Energy Research and Social Science 55, 62–70. (2019)    
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.