The study of statistics such as births, deaths, income, or the incidence of disease, which illustrate the changing structure of human populations.¹
Origin & Popularity:
A Wider Approach:
At first glance demography seems to apply only to a few common, measurable, variables of the “changing structure of human populations.” Each example given by Oxford directly relates to the immediate health of the collective in question: “births, deaths, income, or … disease.” The availability of this sort of information was readily available through normal bureaucratic necessity, a government of a certain size needs to know estimates of national income, births, deaths, and disease in order for the state to raise taxes and protect the population.
But with the growth of big data, demography encompasses so much more. Through Facebook likes, location services, financial histories, and other troves of freely given information, demography gives us a way to addresses important questions within a society. In analyzing how different factors like religiosity, nationalism, and education interact and change a society, the populace can correct for harms and adapt towards benefit. While the end policy goal of the demographic analysis should be left to the murkier waters of ethics and political theory, having more objective data on the variables is incredibly valuable.
¹ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “demography,” accessed March 14, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/demography.