Political demography  

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According to London-based scholar Eric Kaufmann, the high birth rates of religious fundamentalists as against seculars and moderates has contributed to an increase in religious fundamentalism and decrease of moderate religion within religious groups, as in Israel, the US and the Muslim Middle East. Kaufmann, armed with empirical data from a number of countries, also posits that this will be further bolstered by the higher retention rates of religious fundamentalists, with individuals in religiously fundamentalist households less likely to become religiously non-observant than others.

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Political demography is the study of how population change affects politics.


Age structure and politics

Youth bulges

A second avenue of inquiry considers age structures: be these 'youth bulges' or aging populations. Young populations are associated with a ratio of dependents to producers: a high proportion of the population under age 16 puts pressure on resources. A 'youth bulge' of those in the 16-30 bracket creates a different set of problems.

A large population of adolescents entering the labor force and electorate strains at the seams of the economy and polity, which were designed for smaller populations. This creates unemployment and alienation unless new opportunities are created quickly enough - in which case a 'demographic dividend' accrues because productive workers outweigh young and elderly dependents. Yet the 16-30 age range is associated with risk-taking, especially among males.

In general, youth bulges in developing countries are associated with higher unemployment and, as a result, a heightened risk of violence and political instability. For Cincotta and Doces (2011), the transition to more mature age structures is almost a sine qua non for democratization.

Population aging

Population aging presents the obverse effect: older populations are less risk-taking and less prone to violence and instability. However, like those under-16, they place great strain on the social safety net, especially in countries committed to old-age provision and high-quality medical care.

Some observers believe that the advent of a much older planet, courtesy of below-replacement fertility in Europe, North America, China and much of the rest of Asia and Latin America, will produce a 'geriatric peace'. Others are concerned that population aging will bankrupt the welfare state and handicap western liberal democracies' ability to project power abroad to defend their interests. A more cautious climate could also herald slower economic growth, less entrepreneurship and reduced productivity in mature democracies.

It is also possible that ageing leads to lower inflation as elderly people are both inflation averse and politically powerful. However, some argue that older people in the developed world have much higher productivity, human capital and better health than their counterparts in developing countries, so the economic effects of population aging will be largely mitigated.

See also

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