Population Data

Population Data Definition

Population is the most fundamental aspect of our existence is defined as a set of individuals that share a characteristic or a set of these. A population is mainly defined by geography, like all humans on Earth, all people in California or all people in the United States. Demographers (people who study human populations) categorize this as natural population. A collection of any type of living beings is considered a population, but in this blog, we will focus only on human populations.

Geography is one of the many ways in which population is defined and analyzed. The era, political inclinations, religious beliefs or physical characteristics are ways of dividing people into different populations. The study of populations is achieved by examining these different populations and observing where they coincide. For example, if you know the population of Americans who are Republicans and know the population that lives in Texas, you can study where those populations are intertwined and learn something about Republicans and Texans.

Critical decisions for a nation, organization or a family are made on the basis of population data. Population data contains various influential details such as birth, death, demographic details such as age, sex, annual income, occupation, language etc. The overall socio-economic, economic, political, cultural progress of a country is dependent on population data to a large extent.

Answers to questions such as “How many of us are there in the country?”, “On what basis are we divided?”, “Do we possess enough food, land and other such resources?” are obtained by evaluating population data.

Learn more: Psychographic Segmentation

Characteristics of the Population

The amount of people in the populations is not all that can be known about these. There are also data such as:

Age: The age of a population can tell us a lot about what that population is doing, as well as what it is going to do in the future.

Location: Finding out where people live is one of the main reasons why various countries conduct their census. Many government programs also base their funds on demographic patterns. The location data also inform us about the movement of people.

Socio-economic Data: They help us to know the type of concentrations of people in certain urban areas or for example the high concentrations of people with cancer near certain industrial zones.

Race: The demographic study of the breed is very controversial. Scientifically, there are no different “races” of human beings. The difference between Asians and blacks is the same as the difference between people with brown eyes and people with blue eyes. However, the idea of race continues to play an important role in our societies. Many of us identify ourselves as part of a certain race for cultural reasons.

Learn more: Demographic Survey Questions

Human Population Data Classification and Estimation

There are two basic classifications of population data:

  • Primary Population Data Collection Sources: Data collected directly by a researcher or statistician or a government body via sources such as census, sample survey, etc. are called primary population data collection.
  • Secondary Population Data Collection Sources: Data obtained from existing sources such as journals, newspapers, magazines, annual research reports etc. and not directly by a government or a research organization is called secondary population data collection.

Learn more: Primary Research

The below-mentioned resources are the most used for human population data classification.

  • Census:

The simplest, yet not the most accurate or effective way to evaluate population is merely to count everyone. This is known as a census and is usually done by governments. In the past, religious organizations carried out censuses, but generally at a local or regional level. The Roman Empire carried out censuses to estimate the group of men of military age and for tax purposes, but these were limited since the Romans had to report with the government officials in their hometown to be counted. Poor people or those who could not travel were almost never counted.

A census is sometimes referred to as a complete enumeration, each person is counted by personal interviews,  surveys or any other type of interview. There are no estimates.

Even a complete census has limits. In countries with very remote areas, it may be impossible for census takers to count everyone. And is that many times the pollsters are afraid to enter some neighborhoods or neighborhoods that are far apart.

There are two ways of conducting census:

  • De facto method: When the census is conducted at an individual’s current place of residence, it is known as de facto method. Generally, this census is carried out at night and thus, it is also known as ‘one- night enumeration’. It is conducted in urban regions in a country with high income.
  • De jure method: When the census is conducted at a person’s permanent place of residence, it is known as de jure method. In comparison as de facto, it is more practical and scientific and is also called ‘period enumeration’. Nepal is one of the very few countries which follow this method.

Learn more: Secondary Research

Census has a list of the following attributes:

  • Geographic segmentation attributes such as current residence, permanent residence, place of birth, workplace information, etc.
  • Individual and demographic details such as age, sex, marital status, literacy, language spoken at home, the number of people residing at home currently etc.
  • Details about an individual’s economic background such as occupation, the current status of employment, primary source of income, etc.
  • Sample Surveys:

An alternative to a full enumeration census is sampling. You might be familiar with this as the method that market research companies and political analysts use to conduct their research. Statisticians use a mathematical formula to know the minimum number of people needed to constitute a representative sample of the population. For example, if the total population is 1,000 people, researchers could directly survey 150 of them. Then, they can take the data from the sample and extrapolate it to the entire population. If 10% of the people in the sample are left-handed, it can be assumed that 100 of a population of 1,000 are left-handed.

Sampling can yield more accurate results than full enumeration, but there are some caveats. All the samples have a margin of error, since there is always the possibility that the sample selected for the survey differs in some way from the total population.

This is expressed in terms of variation of error percentage, such as +/- 4% The larger the sample size, the smaller the margin of error. In addition, samples must be chosen in the most random way possible. This can be more difficult than it sounds.

Let’s say you want to survey a sample of all people in Chicago. A method used in the past was to select random names from the phone book. However, this eliminates the possibility of certain classes of people being selected for the sample: low-income people who do not have a telephone; people who use the cell phone and therefore do not appear in the phone book; people with unpublished numbers; and most of the university students.

  • Administrative Records:

The collection of population data from places that do not carry out censuses, or from historical periods where censuses were not common, is achieved by gathering all available demographic information in administrative records. There could be partial censuses, data from the local population or information collected by religious or civic groups. Examining birth and death records provides other clues.

Learn more: Survey Research

Importance of Population Data

Collecting and analyzing population data is integral as there is constant change in it with each passing day, month and year. Here are three main reasons why population data is important:

  • Collect data on population growth and decline:

The human population has increased practically non-stop throughout history. In 1,000 BC, there were between 1 and 10 million human beings. For 1,000 BC there were 50 million. In 600 AD, the world population had reached 200 million. At the beginning of the 20th century, 1,500 million human beings lived on the planet.

Our population seems to increase with greater speed as the centuries pass. The main reason for this is simple, every increase in population creates more people able to reproduce. The population grows exponentially.

According to the Malthus Growth Model, in case a million individuals have enough children to double the population (considering mortality rates), then the next generation will be twice in number that what we are today. Doubling the population gives rise to four million people.

Learn more: Research Design

  • Understand the problems that arise due to population increase:

As the population grows, it is put under pressure. This pressure may come from a lack of resources to feed, house and provide services; an illness; a war; or lack of space. The pressure can be relieved with migration. Wars, diseases and famine also relieve pressure as they kill part of the population.

Malthus’s theory is known as ” The Population Explosion ” (The Population Bomb), and gained popularity with the environmental movement in the 70s fears of global overpopulation are based on several factors:

  • We will not be able to produce enough food to feed everyone.
  • There is not enough space for everyone to live.
  • Humans harm the environment. Too many humans will practically destroy the ecosystem, further reducing our ability to produce food.
  • We can not provide the social infrastructure to care for all people.

Our vulnerability to these factors is based on population density, the number of people per unit area. Since the Industrial Revolution, urbanization has caused a large increase in population density in cities.

The highest population density may have occurred in the walled city of Kowloon in Hong Kong. At some point, about 50,000 people lived in a megablock that averages about 150 by 200 meters. The practically anarchic district was evacuated and demolished to build a park. Nowadays, the areas of greatest demographic density are found in the main urban areas. India and China have large areas of high population density.

As population density increases in a given area, it approaches what is known as carrying capacity. This is the maximum number of people an area is able to support in terms of available resources.

For animals, this is easy to calculate. For example, a goat might need 50 square yards of grass to survive. Therefore, an area of 200 yards has the capacity to load four goats. Calculating the carrying capacity for humans is much more complex. We can use technology to optimize our production of resources. We can transport resources from other areas. We can create sanitation systems and other infrastructures to support a higher density.

Control of the population

What happens when we reach the load capacity in an area? There are several options:

  • People move to another area.
  • People are less healthy, therefore, less able to reproduce.
  • The pressure of the population leads to war.
  • Unsanitary conditions and proximity cause outbreaks of disease.
  • We optimize the generation of resources and infrastructure, increasing the load capacity.
  • Humans are also able to voluntarily control their populations. This can occur on a large scale, such as a program or government law or individual level. People have had greater access to birth control since the 1960s.

Governments, for example, Chinese government, controlled increase in population by imposing penalties for having too many children. This way having fewer children seems more convenient which leads to more people sterilizing themselves. Unfortunately, some governments in the past have adopted genocide, i.e., have tried to reduce or eliminate certain populations that they consider undesirable by killing them in masses.

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