In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Political Demography

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data
  • Global Political Concerns and Security
  • Historical Political Change and Economic Development
  • Population, Development, and the Demographic Transition
  • Eugenics
  • Shadow of Eugenics
  • Neo-Malthus and the Population Bomb
  • Chinese Demographic Structures
  • Women’s Rights
  • Aging Populations
  • Demographic Dividends
  • Youth Bulge
  • Recovery after War
  • Migration Considerations
  • Immigration to Europe and the United States
  • Religious Change

International Relations Political Demography
Tadeusz Kugler
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 January 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0154


Political demography is the study of the interconnection between economics, policy, and population. Unlike the general discipline of demography, the field is not focused on the creation of demographic measurements or the refining of estimations; political demography concerns itself with the broad consequences on attitudes and structure, both individual and political, from the policy choice to attempt to manipulate demography, the aftereffects of its change, and the determinist characteristic of population itself. Weiner 1971 explains that “political demography is the study of the size, composition, and distribution of population in relation to both government and politics. It is concerned with the political consequences of population change, especially the effects of population change on the demands made upon governments, on the performance of governments, and on the distribution of political power.” (p. 567) It is then a trans- disciplinary field. From demography, it draws upon the dynamic changes in the basic foundations of human societies: that is, existence itself, the future scale of population, and the location of life. Although it is not always acknowledged as such, politics is intrinsically interconnected with the demographic mix of its topics of study. Integrated into this mix is a strong emphasis on economics and sociology in general. Such is the field of political demography, and this bibliography will focus on a selection of major topics starting with a general overview along with a discussion of literature on global political and security considerations. From there, it gives a history of the field’s development, including the formation of its scholarship on economic development, modern development with the demographic transition, the basis of eugenics arguments, the substantial aftereffects (both policy and disciplinary) of those arguments, and the rise and fall of neo-Malthusian theory. Having established the roots of much of the current work, it moves to key concerns in the present and for the future of the field: there is a special section on the scale and complexity of the Chinese demographical case, the conditions shaping women’s rights, the consequences of aging populations, the potential of the demographic dividend (economic growth from a young population) and potentially dynamic changes connected to youth bulges (political consequences of a young population), issues of demographic recovery after war, migration, immigration, religious change, and lastly, a overview of the possibilities and future of available data.

General Overviews

A common criticism within the field of political demography is the lack of a standardized methodological structure or shared literature canon. Its trans-disciplinary nature creates the possibility of isolation within predominantly social science disciplines, which in turn limits cross-discipline publication or shared research projects. The modern link between policy and demography in the 20th century was established in large part by Carr-Saunders 1936 evaluating demographical shifts and the possibilities of war in the interwar period. Organski, et al. 1984 is an early attempt to create empirical tests between measurements of politics and demographic change. Teitelbaum and Winter 1998 uses a series of case studies as a means to connect policy choice concerning migration to national futures. Weiner 1971 serves as the definitive study in the field with Weiner and Teitelbaum 2001 offering a synopsis of the modern complexities and moving to considerations of migration, nationalism, and the interconnections between demography as destiny or as dynamic variable malleable by politics. Sauvy 1969 serves as a predecessor focusing on the economic and sociological outcomes of demography. See Sellon 2004 for the evaluations of change from a central bank and policy implementation perspective. Goldstone, et al. 2012 exemplifies an attempt at an introduction of the field by creating a basic understanding of shared research topics with a broad selection of major works.

  • Carr-Saunders, Alexander Morris. World Population: Past Growth and Present Trends. Oxford: Clarendon, 1936.

    A book investigating statistics of declining birth rates, death rates, migration statistics, and the interaction with family size and likely governmental policy implications used to forecast possible political futures of nations, global population, and international implications of possible of “overpopulation” creating an incentive for imperial ambitions. Weighted toward European statistics with attempts to measure other large population centers such as China, United States, Japan, and India.

  • Goldstone, Jack A., Eric P. Kaufmann, and Monica Duffy Toft, eds. Political Demography: How Population Changes are Reshaping International Security and National Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    An edited volume designed for an advanced undergraduate (or introductory graduate school) course, the essays here are written by leading experts in the field, all of whom have had extensive research agendas within their topics of specialty. The comprehensive but approachable connection to complex research is a useful.

  • Organski, A. F. Kenneth, Jacek Kugler, J. Timothy Johnson, and Youssef Cohen. Births, Deaths, and Taxes: The Demographic and Political Transitions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

    The volume attempts to empirically measure government’s political capacity to implement policy as a means to evaluate the possible causal relationship between policy choice and demographical outcomes (specifically the demographical transition). The long-term security and global influences of these policies are discussed.

  • Sauvy, Alfred. General Theory of Population. New York: Basic Books, 1969.

    The culmination of Sauvy’s long career, this volume argues that choice and innovation are necessities for the possibility of social and economic gain from population growth, whether this growth is via births or migrations. It argues that the political choice to move beyond protectionism or Malthusianism is a necessity and that additional population can be interpreted as dynamic change.

  • Sellon, Gordon H., ed. Global Demographic Change: Economic Impacts and Policy Challenges; A Symposium Sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, August 26–28, 2004. Kansas City, MO: Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, 2004.

    Principally interested in the financial aspects of demographical change. The volume focuses on rising dependency ratios and resulting pressure on pension plans with international factor mobility. Uniquely also included is a discussion session dealing directly with political demography with the participants being major decision makers from various nations’ central banks.

  • Teitelbaum, Michael S., and Jay Winter. A Question of Numbers: High Migration, Low Fertility and the Politics of National Identity. New York: Hill and Wang, 1998.

    Written for a popular audience, this volume moves beyond a general overview to nations’ policy choices related to citizenship, immigration, and the nuances of social acceptance of migrants (similar topics will be expanded upon in the following sections). The influence of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Yugoslavian experience are discussed from this combination of law, choice, and migration.

  • Weiner, Myron. “Political Demography: An Inquiry into the Consequences of Population Change.” In Rapid Population Growth: Consequences and Policy Implications. Prepared by a Study Committee of the Office of the Foreign Secretary: National Academy of the Sciences. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971.

    Widely considered the origin of the definition of political demography as a field, this essay gives an overview of its theoretical framework with future connections evaluated.

  • Weiner, Myron, and Michael S. Teitelbaum. Political Demography, Demographic Engineering. New York: Berghahn, 2001.

    This volume discusses key questions in the field such as the effects of diaspora or migrations on security, changing competition within countries with divergent rates of growth, global security trends, and the future of research in the field. The interactions of each are well considered.

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