Spotlights on Health and Rights

Key topics in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health


Demography and Population Studies

Demography can be defined as the "scientific study of human populations, primarily with respect to their size, their structure and their development" (Van De Walle, Multilingual Demographic Dictionary, 1982). There is however some tension as to what exactly "demography" exactly encompasses. For some, it comprises "a set of techniques by which data collected in censuses, surveys and vital registration systems about age, sex, births, deaths, migrations, marriages and so on are described, summarized and manipulated" (Newell, p.3). This is often referred to as "formal demography". For others, it is much broader and encompasses the study of fertility, mortality and migration from a variety of different viewpoints including sociology, economics, anthropology etc... As such it is inherently multidisciplinary and it is often referred to as "population studies", a term which also includes the treatment of relation between demographic phenomena and social, economic or political phenomena.