Sociology Demography
Rebecca Kippen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0118


Demography is the study of human populations, in particular their size and composition, and how they change through fertility (births), migration, aging, and mortality (deaths). Demography also includes analysis of the economic, social, environmental, and biological causes and consequences of population change. Although demography is a discipline in its own right, it draws heavily on other fields, including biology, economics, epidemiology, geography, and sociology. Demography tends to be highly empirical, with a strong focus on data and data quality.

Data Sources

The accessibility of data sources for demographic analysis has been greatly enhanced by the introduction of databases available online. Staple demographic data are derived from censuses, vital registration of births, deaths and marriages, administrative sources, and surveys. Many national statistical agencies—such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics—provide aggregate population online for their country. The Eurostat Population Database contains demographic data collected from member states of the European Union. Examples of cross-country surveys include the Gender and Generations Programme (focused on developed countries) and Demographic and Health Surveys (focused on developing countries). World Population Prospects provides long-term demographic data for most countries globally. IPUMS collects, standardizes, and makes available census data for as many countries as possible. The Human Fertility Database and Human Mortality Database each focus on a single component of demographic change for as many countries as possible.

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics.

    The Bureau runs the five-yearly Australian national census and collects a range of other population and statistical data. A wealth of detailed Australian demographic data are available for free download, including census data, historical population statistics, and recent population, birth, death, and migration counts.

  • Eurostat.

    Provides demographic statistics and publications on member countries of the European Union with the goal of enabling comparisons between countries and regions. Included are statistics on population, households, fertility, mortality, migration and asylum seekers, nuptiality, education, and population projections.

  • Generations and Gender Programme.

    A series of nationally comparative longitudinal surveys currently available for nineteen countries. Focused on developed countries, the surveys include data on family, fertility, intergenerational and gender relations, and how these change over time. Aggregate data are available for free. Micro data are available for free on registration for research questions.

  • Demographic and Health Surveys.

    Administered since 1984 in over ninety countries, the aim of these nationally representative standardized surveys is to enhance knowledge of population and health trends in developing countries. Survey reports are available for free download. Survey data are available for free download on registration for approved research projects.

  • World Population Prospects.

    Collated biennially by the Population Division of the United Nations; contains demographic indicators for countries and regional groupings for every fifth year from 1950 to 2100, including populations by age, total fertility rates, and life expectancies. Available for download in spreadsheets and PDF and for order on CD/DVD.

  • Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, International (IPUMS).

    IPUMS is hosted by the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota. Aims are to collect census data and documentation from around the world, to standardize these data, and to make them freely available to qualified researchers. The series currently holds data from 211 censuses in sixty-eight countries.

  • Human Fertility Database.

    Currently provides detailed period and cohort fertility data for nineteen countries for free on registration. Year coverage varies. Data for more countries are being added. The aim is to assist comparative research on fertility change over time.

  • Human Mortality Database.

    Currently holds long-run annual data for thirty-seven countries: population, births, deaths, death rates, and life tables. Year coverage varies. Data are readily downloadable for free upon registration. The aim of the database is to assist research into the causes and effects of increases in life expectancy in the modern era.

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