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Political demography

Political demography is the study of how population change, affects politics. Population change is driven by classic demographic mechanisms – birth, death, age structure, and migration. However, in political demography, there is always scope for assimilation as well as boundary and identity change, which can redraw the boundaries of populations in a way that is not possible with biological populations. Typically, political-demographic projections can account for both demographic factors and transitions caused by social change. A notable leader in the area of sub-state population projection is the World Population Program of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria. Some of the issues which are studied in the context of political demography are: surges of young people in the developing world, significantly increasing aging in the developed world, and the impact of increasing urbanization. Political demographers study issues like population growth in a political context. A population's growth is impacted by the relative balance of variables like mortality, fertility and immigration. Many of the present world's most powerful nations are aging quickly, largely as a result of major decreases in fertility rates and major increases in life expectancies. As the labor pools in these nations shrink, and spending on the elderly increases, their economies are likely to slow down. By 2050, the workforce in Japan and Russia is predicted to decrease by more than 30 percent, while the German workforce is expected to decline by 25 percent by that year. The governments of these countries have made financial commitments to the elderly in their populations which will consume huge percentages of their national GDP. For example, based on current numbers, more than 25% of the national GDPs of Japan, France and Germany will be consumed by these commitments by 2040.

Differential reproductive success is the mechanism through which evolution takes place. For much of human history this occurred through migrations and wars of conquest, with disease and mortality through famine and war affecting the power of empires, tribes and city-states. Differential fertility also played a part, though typically reflected resource availability rather than cultural factors. Though culture has largely usurped this role, some claim that differential demography continues to affect cultural and political evolution.

The demographic transition from the late eighteenth century onwards opened up the possibility that significant change could occur within and between political units. Though the writings of Polybius and Cicero in classical times bemoaned the low fertility of the patrician elite as against their more fecund barbarian competitors, differential fertility has probably only recently emerged as a central aspect of political demography. This has come about due to medical advances which have lowered infant mortality while conquest migrations have faded as a factor in world history. Differences in immunity levels to infectious diseases between populations also play no major role in our age of modern medicine and widespread exposure to a common disease pool. It is not so much the trajectory of demographic transition that counts as the fact that it has become more intense and uneven in the late twentieth century as it has spread into the developing world. Uneven transitions lend themselves to differential growth rates between contending groups. These changes are, in turn, magnified by democratization, which entrenches majority rule and privileges the power of numbers in politics as never before. Indeed, in many new democracies riven by ethnic and religious conflicts, elections are akin to censuses while groups seek to 'win the census'. Ethnic parties struggle to increase their constituencies through pronatalism ('wombfare'), oppose family planning, and contest census and election results.



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