Demography is not Destiny: 'Global Political Demography Database' Started

Demography research is historically driven by questions that population politics sees as urgent in a given socio-political context. In a globally inter-connected world differentials in population growth and composition pose challenges for institutions on different levels of governance. To talk about those challenges is greatly facilitated if reliable data is available, and if stakeholders share access to verified data sets. Communicable data sets are a pre-requisite of political decision making across levels of governance and political borders.

The open access 'Global Political Demography Database' contains for the first time global indicators from politics, population development, economy and society to support political-demographic research. This database was developed by Achim Goerres (University of Duisburg-Essen, UDE) and Pieter Vanhuysse (University of Southern Denmark), along with a number of colleagues. The project was supported by a workshop at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research in 2017.

The published data set ( contains political and demographic, country-specific data merged from international sources (UN World Population prospects, from three points in time (1990, 2015, 2040 projection). 236 countries are covered, and information collected includes case identifying information, demographic subjects (age groups, sex, life expectancy per age etc.), migration data, education & poverty data, crime & justice characteristics, political aspects (quality indicators, electoral system, turnout & survey-based retrospective turnout for different age groups) and economy & inequality (GINI-Index, government expenditures in health, pensions). (Source: GPD-Codebook-v1.4)

A  strategy for researchers might be to exploit patterns of covariation between population and political indicators, as the authors demonstrate in a pre-published introductory chapter by relating election turnout by age groups to migration (4.3).

The database project is accompanied, enhanced, and likely deepened by an ambitions book project, a volume to be published open access by Palgrave Macmillan, consistent with the overall policy of this endeavour and supported by the UDE University Library:

Achim Goerres and Pieter Vanhuysse, eds., Global Political Demography: The Politics of Population Change, Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.

This publication is going to deal with the methodological question first. How do the political economy and political sociology traits of some population groups relative to others – notably in terms of numerical size and political capacity – affect public policies, political actions and political order via the intermediary of political and institutional processes? How does this then produce various feedback effects? What can macro-demographic profiles tell us about the political problems a country or a macro-region faced in 1990, faces today, and will be facing by 2040?

It will then provide an in-depth picture of current constellations in political demography, as leading social scientists from a wide range of disciplines discuss, for the first time, all major political and policy aspects of population change as they play out differently in each major world region (UDE scientists hyperlinked): North (Jennifer Sciubba) and South America (Diego Wachs, Vitor Calvalcanti and Clara Galeazzi); Sub-Saharan Africa and the MENA region (Christof Hartmann and Catherine Promise Biira); Western (Elias Naumann and Moritz Hess) and East Central Europe (Pieter Vanhuysse and Jolanta Perek-Bialas); Russia, Belarus and Ukraine (Rza Kazimov and Sergei Zakharov); East Asia (Nele Noesselt, Axel Klein and Hannes Mosler); Southeast Asia (Patrick Ziegenhain); subcontinental India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (K.S. James and Arun Balachandran); Australia and New Zealand (Peter McDonald and Andrew Markus). These macro-regional analyses are completed by cross-cutting global analyses of migration, religion and poverty, and age profiles and intra-state conflicts.

Stuart Gietel-Basten in this part argues that apparent demographic travails are, perhaps, downstream consequences of broader institutional malfunctions: symptoms, rather than causes, of ongoing challenges in our societies.

The editors see these essential take-aways from their endeavour:

  • The political consequences and the political embeddedness of population change lie at the heart of the social sciences at large.
  • Population change creates short-term and long-term challenges, both of which require political solutions.
  • Political reactions to population changes follow very context-specific paths because their level of ‘problematicness’ is socially and politically constructed. (introductory chapter, 17)

This may be understood as a wink in the direction of institutional design and inter-institutional cooperation.

While long-term population ageing and short-term migration fluctuations present structural conditions, political actors play a key role in (mis-)managing, manipulating, and (under-)planning population change, which in turn determines how citizens in different groups react (from the book’s abstract).

Project Lead