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Racial demographic map of Houston, Texas, from the 2000 US census

Demographics are the quantifiable statistics of a given population. Demographics are also used to identify the study of quantifiable subsets within a given population which characterize that population at a specific point in time.

Demography is used widely in public opinion polling and marketing. Commonly examined demographics include gender, age, ethnicity, knowledge of languages, disabilities, mobility, home ownership, employment status, and even location. Demographic trends describe the historical changes in demographics in a population over time (for example, the average age of a population may increase or decrease over time). Both distributions and trends of values within a demographic variable are of interest. Demographics can be viewed as the essential information about the population of a region and the culture of the people there.


One of the earliest demographic studies was Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality (1662) by John Graunt. Among the study's findings were that two thirds of children in London died before their sixteenth birthday.

Demographic profiles in marketing[edit]

Main article: Demographic profile

Marketers typically combine several variables to define a demographic profile. A demographic profile (often shortened to "a demographic") provides enough information about the typical member of this group to create a mental picture of this hypothetical aggregate. For example, a marketer might speak of the single, female, middle-class, age 18 to 24, college educated demographic.

Researchers typically have two objectives in this regard: first to determine what segments or subgroups exist in the overall population; and secondly to create a clear and complete picture of the characteristics of a typical member of each of segments. Once these profiles are constructed, they can be used to develop a marketing strategy and marketing plan. The five types of demographics for marketing are age, gender, income level, race and ethnicity.

Generational cohorts[edit]

A generational cohort has been defined as "the group of individuals (within some population definition) who experience the same event within the same time interval".[1] The notion of a group of people bound together by the sharing of the experience of common historical events developed in the early 1920s, in particular beginning with the theory of generations by the sociologist Karl Mannheim. Today the concept has found its way into popular culture through well known phrases like "baby boomer" and "Generation X".

The United Kingdom has a series of four national birth cohort studies, the first three spaced apart by 12 years: the 1946 National Survey of Health and Development, the 1958 National Child Development Study,[2] the 1970 British Cohort Study,[3] and the Millennium Cohort Study, begun much more recently in 2000. These have followed the lives of samples of people (typically beginning with around 17,000 in each study) for many years, and are still continuing. As the samples have been drawn in a nationally representative way, inferences can be drawn from these studies about the differences between four distinct generations of British people in terms of their health, education, attitudes, childbearing and employment patterns.[4]

Criticisms and qualifications of demographic profiling[edit]

Demographic profiling is essentially an exercise in making generalizations about groups of people. As with all such generalizations many individuals within these groups will not conform to the profile - demographic information is aggregate and probabilistic information about groups, not about specific individuals. Critics of demographic profiling argue that such broad-brush generalizations can only offer such limited insight and that their practical usefulness is debatable.

Most demographic information is also culturally based. The generational cohort information above, for example, applies primarily to North America (and to a lesser extent to Western Europe) and it may be unfruitful to generalize conclusions more widely as different nations face different situations and potential challenges.[5]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Ryder, N., The cohort as a concept in the study of social change, presented at the 1959 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.
  2. ^ Power C and Elliott J (2006). "Cohort profile: 1958 British Cohort Study". International Journal of Epidemiology 35 (1): 34–41. doi:10.1093/ije/dyi183. PMID 16155052. 
  3. ^ Elliott J and Shepherd P (2006). "Cohort profile: 1970 British Birth Cohort (BCS70)". International Journal of Epidemiology 35 (4): 846–843. doi:10.1093/ije/dyl174. PMID 16931528. 
  4. ^ The last three are run by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies
  5. ^ O'CONNOR, DONAL (2009-06-11). "Our health-care system about to go 'boom'". The Beacon Herald (Sun Media). Retrieved 2009-06-14. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Klauke, A. (2000) Coping with Changing Demographics. Webpage at ERICDigests.org. An analysis of the effect of changing demographic patterns on school enrollments and education.
  • Meredith, G., Schewe, C., and Haim, A. (2002), Managing by defining moments: Innovative strategies for motivating 5 very different generational cohorts, Hungry Minds Inc., New York, 2002, ISBN 0-7645-5412-3
  • Weber, Lars 2010: Demographic Change and Economic Growth - Simulation on Growth Models Physica. ISBN 978-3-7908-2589-3

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Demography at Wikimedia Commons

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics — Please support Wikipedia.
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