Social Demography (Myrskylä)

At a Glance Laboratories Publications Team

Detailed Description


The key forces governing demographic processes are social, political, and biological. The consequences of demographic change are similarly spread across the social, political, and biological spheres. The Department of Social Demography focuses on understanding how these forces jointly produce the modern demographic landscape; it charts possible demographic futures and their consequences; and it explores the feasibility of adaptation for the future scenarios that are challenging in terms of economic, social, or other dimensions of sustainability.

Research in the Department of Social Demography is structured around five key questions and five interlinked research units:

The Laboratory of Population Health analyzes health and mortality dynamics across the life course and asks to what extent the increasing gains in longevity result in better lives — for individuals, their networks, and societies.

Fertility, childbearing, and childrearing are increasingly problematized in research and policy: At the societal level, fertility tends to be seen as too low (and if not, then as too high) and too late (or alternatively too early). For the individuals, fertility is seen as lower than desired, unwanted, mistimed, or as a source of stress for the parents or parents-to-be. The Laboratory of Fertility and Well-Being explores what the empirical foundations of such narratives are.

Low fertility and increasing longevity lead to population aging. The Research Group Labor Demography asks to what extent this is a problem, seeking answers from the interplay of population aging, labor-participation dynamics over the life course, changing human capital, and retirement processes.

The Max Planck – University of Helsinki Center for Social Inequalities in Population Health (MaxHel) dives into heterogeneities in population health. Progression is not equal, disparities are widening, and the root causes are poorly understood. MaxHel addresses these root causes by combining rich genealogical data, full kinship structures, and genetic information.

Untangling the Biological and Social Causes of Low Fertility in Modern Societies (BIOSFER) does the same for fertility: Why are we seeing unprecedentedly low and unprecedentedly polarized fertility outcomes? Why are low education and low income increasingly strongly predictive of childlessness, and in particular in countries considered to be at the forefront of social equality such as Norway and Finland? How do social and biological processes jointly generate these inequalities? BIOSFER collects new data and develops new approaches to understand this conundrum.

Throughout these research themes, we place a strong emphasis on population-level trends and micro-macro mechanisms driving the macro developments. We use and develop cutting-edge mathematical, statistical, and computational methods to address these questions, and we use rich sets of existing register, survey, and biomarker data, as well as data collected by our teams and collaborators. The focal areas of our research themes are not bounded geographically or in time but have a leaning toward contemporary patterns and future challenges. The integration of knowledge across the five research themes holds the promise to develop a new understanding of demography as both consequence of and cause for social change.

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.