Population Dynamics and Sustainable Well-Being

At a Glance Projects Publications Team

Detailed Description


Our overarching goal is to understand, connect, and anticipate the sustainability of individual life trajectories and population dynamics. At its most fundamental level, well-being cannot be achieved without preserving life as we age. However, survival alone is not enough. Maintaining good health, consolidating networks of support, enjoying financial stability, and having a balanced relationship with the natural environment are key elements for people’s continued well-being over the life course and across generations.

The concept of sustainable populations is multidimensional in nature and encompasses social, economic, technological, and environmental aspects that are intimately interconnected with people’s well-being and population dynamics. We aim at advancing fundamental population science, taking a future-oriented perspective. We study long-term population processes, exploring the interdependencies between micro-level outcomes and macro-level population dynamics, and this contributes to improving our forecasting capacity. But we also assess the implications of economic, technological, and environmental disruptions on population dynamics and well-being. By contrasting cases and circumstances in a comparative perspective, we evaluate the factors that explain different degrees of impact and resilience, as well as the capacity of societies to improve equity.

We advance knowledge and generate new discoveries by: (i) combining, in creative ways, state-of-the-art demographic, statistical, and computational methods; (ii) leveraging novel data sources that have been generated as part of the digital and computational revolution; and (iii) developing new forms of data collection and simulation models to complement existing traditional resources.

We concentrate on four main interrelated substantive research areas.

Projects centered around Health and Mortality develop new methods to estimate and predict demographic change across countries and over time, with a specific focus on longevity, socioeconomic inequalities in the length of life, and the lived experience of kin loss. We aim at understanding the factors that explain and predict how long we live, how long our lives overlap with those of family members, and how social and economic factors affect health and well-being. In response to the global shock generated by COVID-19, we have also expanded our research to investigate the effects of the pandemic on people’s health and behaviors.

In Transfers and Economic Fairness, we assess generational resource sharing in the form of financial transfers, time transfers, and intergenerational contact patterns. We evaluate how transfers of wealth and of informal care, as well as labor-force participation, are affected by global demographic change, life-course trajectories, and sudden economic crises, with a specific focus on generational equity.

In Digitalization and Inequalities, we study how technological change differentially affects social relations, emotional well-being, and the way we spend our time. 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 support networks. We assess the differential demographic impacts of access and use of digital technologies and the implications of their adoption for intergenerational and long-distance contacts. Similarly, we assess the health-related effects of social media use and how social relationships are affected by technological progress, with unequal consequences for the well-being of different demographic groups.

In Population and Environment, we assess how demographic change affects environmental outcomes. Additionally, we measure and predict the consequences of climate change events, such as extreme temperatures or natural disasters, on demographic outcomes and population health.

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.