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Racial demographic map of Houston, Texas, from the 2000 census

Demographics or demographic data are the characteristics of a human population. These types of data are used widely in sociology, public policy, and marketing. Commonly used demographics include gender, race, age, income, disabilities, mobility (in terms of travel time to work or number of vehicles available), educational attainment, home ownership, employment status, and even location. Demographic trends describe the changes in demographics in a population over time (for example, the average age of a population may increase or decrease over time). Both distributions and trends of values within a demographic variable are of interest.



 Demographic profiles in marketing

Marketers typically combine several variables to define a demographic profile. A demographic profile (often shortened to "a demographic") provides enough information about the typical member of this group to create a mental picture of this hypothetical aggregate. For example, a marketer might speak of the single, female, middle-class, age 18 to 24, college educated demographic.

Marketing researchers typically have two objectives in this regard: first to determine what segments or subgroups exist in the overall population; and secondly to create a clear and complete picture of the characteristics of a typical member of each of these segments. Once these profiles are constructed, they can be used to develop a marketing strategy and marketing plan. The five types of demographics in marketing are age, gender, income level, race and ethnicity.

 Generational cohorts

A generational cohort has been defined as "the group of individuals (within some population definition) who experience the same event within the same time interval".[1] The notion of a group of people bound together by the sharing of the experience of common historical events developed in the early 1920s. Today the concept has found its way into popular culture through well known phrases like "baby boomer" and "Generation X".

The United Kingdom has a series of four national birth cohort studies, the first three spaced apart by 12 years: the 1946 National Survey of Health and Development, the 1958 National Child Development Study,[2] the 1970 British Cohort Study,[3] and the Millennium Cohort Study, begun much more recently in 2000. These have followed the lives of samples of people (typically beginning with around 17,000 in each study) for many years, and are still continuing. As the samples have been drawn in a nationally representative way, inferences can be drawn from these studies about the differences between four distinct generations of British people in terms of their health, education, attitudes, childbearing and employment patterns. The last three are run by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies

 Cohorts in the United States

A study by William Strauss and Neil Howe, in their books Generations and Fourth Turning, looked at generational similarities and differences going back to the 15th century and concluded that over 80 year spans, generations proceed through 4 stages of about 20 years each. The first phase consists of times of relative crisis and the people born during this period were called "artists". The next phase was a "high" period and those born in this period were called "prophets". The next phase was an "awakening period" and people born in this period were called "nomads". The final stage was the "unraveling period" and people born in this period were called "heroes". The most recent "high period" occurred in the 50s and 60s (hence baby boomers are the most recent crop of "prophets").

The most definitive recent study of the US generational cohorts was done by Schuman and Scott (1989) in 1985 in which a broad sample of adults of all ages were asked, "What world events are especially important to you?"[4] They found that 33 events were mentioned with great frequency. When the ages of the respondents were correlated with the expressed importance rankings, seven distinct cohorts became evident. Today the following descriptors are frequently used for these cohorts:

  • Depression cohort (born from 1912 to 1921)
    • Memorable events: The Great Depression, high levels of unemployment, poverty, lack of creature comforts, financial uncertainty
    • Key characteristics: strive for financial security, risk averse, waste-not-want-not attitude, strive for comfort
  • Pre 'World War II cohort' (born from 1922 to 1927)
    • Memorable events: men leaving to go to war and many not returning, the personal experience of the war, women working in factories, focus on defeating a common enemy
    • Key characteristics: the nobility of sacrifice for the common good, patriotism, team player
  • World War II cohort (born from 1928 to 1945)
  • Baby Boomer cohort #1[citation needed] (born from 1946 to 1953)
  • Boomer cohort #2 - "Generation Jones," born 1954-1965
    • Memorable events: Watergate, Nixon resigns, the cold war, the oil embargo, raging inflation, Disco, gasoline shortages
    • Key characteristics: less optimistic, pragmatic, general cynicism
  • Generation X cohort (born from 1965 to 1980)
    • Memorable events: Challenger explosion, Iran-Contra, Reaganomics, AIDS, Star Wars, MTV, the home computer, safe sex, divorce, single parent families, end of cold war-fall of berlin wall, desert storm
    • Key characteristics: quest for emotional security, independent, informality, entrepreneurial
  • Generation Y Cohort (born from 1981 to 1999)

 U.S. Demographic birth cohorts

The US Census Bureau generally[weasel words]considers the following demographic birth cohorts[citation needed] based on birth rate, which is statistically measurable:

  • Classics (born from 1900 to 1920)
    • (the last American cohort in which the population pyramid takes on the standard "step" form for males and females)
  • Baby Bust (I) (born from 1921 to 1945)
    • early cohort (born from 1921 to 1933)
    • late cohort (born from 1934 to 1946)
  • Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964)
    • Boomer Cohort #1 (born from 1946 to 1957)
    • Boomer Cohort #2 (born from 1957 to 1964)
  • GenX/Baby Bust (II) (born from 1964 to 1976)
  • Echo Boomers (born from 1976 to 1994)
    • Leading Edge (born from 1977 to 1990)
    • Trailing Edge (born from 1990 to 1994)

Subdivided groups are present when peak boom years or inverted peak bust years are present, and may be represented by a normal or inverted bell-shaped curve (rather than a straight curve). The boom subdivided cohorts may be considered as "pre-peak" (including peak year) and "post-peak". The year 1957 was the baby boom peak with 4.3 million births and 122.7 fertility rate. Although post-peak births (such as trailing edge boomers) are in decline, and sometimes referred to as a "bust", there are still a relative large number of births. The dearth-in-birth bust cohorts include those up to the valley birth year, and those including and beyond, leading up to the subsequent normal birth rate.

From the decline in birth rates starting in 1958 and the introduction of the birth control pill in 1960, the Baby Boomer normal distribution curve is negatively skewed. The trend in birth rates from 1958 to 1961 show a tendency to end late in the decade at approximately 1969, thus returning to pre-WWII levels, with 12 years of rising and 12 years of declining birth rates. Pre-war birth rates were defined as anywhere between 1939 and 1941 by demographers such as the Taeuber's, Philip M. Hauser and William Fielding Ogburn. [1] From 1962 to 1964, trend analysis points to 1965 as being the first year to return to baseline birth rates, possibly referring to this cohort as "Generation X".

 Criticisms and qualifications of demographic profiling

Demographic profiling is essentially an exercise in making generalizations about groups of people. As with all such generalizations many individuals within these groups will not conform to the profile - demographic information is aggregate and probabilistic information about groups, not about specific individuals. Critics of demographic profiling argue that such broad-brush generalizations can only offer such limited insight and that their practical usefulness is debatable. However, if the conclusions drawn are statistically valid and reproducible, these criticisms are not as well founded.

Most demographic information is also culturally based. The generational cohort information above, for example, applies primarily to North America (and to a lesser extent to Western Europe) and it may be unfruitful to generalize conclusions more widely as different nations face different situations and potential challenges.[5]

 See also



  1. ^ Ryder, N., The cohort as a concept in the study of social change, presented at the 1959 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.
  2. ^ Power C and Elliott J (2006). "Cohort profile: 1958 British Cohort Study". International Journal of Epidemiology 35 (1): 34�41. doi:10.1093/ije/dyi183. PMID 16155052. 
  3. ^ Elliott J and Shepherd P (2006). "Cohort profile: 1970 British Birth Cohort (BCS70)". International Journal of Epidemiology 35 (4): 846�843. doi:10.1093/ije/dyl174. PMID 16931528. 
  4. ^ Schuman, H. and Scott, J. (1989), Generations and collective memories, American Sociological Review, vol. 54, 1989, pp. 359-81.
  5. ^ O'CONNOR, DONAL (2009-06-11). "Our health-care system about to go 'boom'". The Beacon Herald (Sun Media). Retrieved 2009-06-14. 

 Further reading

  • Klauke, A. (2000) Coping with Changing Demographics An analysis of the effect of changing demographic patterns on school enrollments and education.
  • Merh, G., Schewe, C., and Haim, A. (2002), Managing by defining moments: Innovative strategies for motivating 5 very different generational cohorts, Hungry Minds Inc., New York, 2002, ISBN 0-7645-5412-3
  • Weber, Lars 2012: Demographic Change and Economic Growth - Simulation on Growth Models Physica. ISBN 978-3790825893

 External links

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