Formal Demography

As Keyfitz (1974) famously said, we know the basic facts of demography from our formal models. Observational studies too often obscure fundamental patterns in the interactions among key variables, some unobserved. Formal demography is a vital, living field but it has been marginalized at most research centers. BPC plays a key role in moving formal demography in new directions through our research and sustaining it through Berkeley's independent Department of Demography (supported by NIH training grants). Innovations: Berkeley demographers have made basic contributions to this body of knowledge and applied them to a wide array of substantive problems. They clarify the terms of debate in controversies over period and cohort effects in fertility and mortality trends, the importance of improvements in fertility control, the implications of increasing longevity, the roles of fertility and migration in population composition, kinship, and biodemography. Formal demography is the foundation for simulation methods pioneered by Hammel and Wachter, forecast methods, and model life tables. Today, there are four areas of lively research in formal demography: (1) applications of calculus to demographic indices (tempo, dispersion, demographic translation); (2) stochastic and Bayesian forecasting; (3) transfer accounting; and (4) mathematical biodemography.

This theme is more closely identified with Berkeley Demography than any other theme in BPC. In that way it comes closest among all the themes to being a signature theme, uniting the three re-founders of Berkeley Demography; Gene Hammel (an anthropologist), Ron Lee (an economist), and Ken Wachter (a statistician). A department founded with interdisciplinary spirit has led to many additional interdisciplinary collaborations. Lee has done major work in collaboration with anthropologists and sociologists, and Wachter has worked with historians, life scientists, and mathematicians.

The Berkeley Population Center is also proud to host the annual Berkeley Summer Workshop in Formal Demography.  Click on the button to your right to learn more.

Project Director:
Ron Lee and Andrew Mason
Description:

In the domain of transfer accounting, a large international comparative project is underway under the leadership of Lee and of Andy Mason of the East-West Center, e.g. Lee and Mason, 2008.

Project Director:
Ken Wachter and Jim Carey (UC Davis)
Description:

This research aims to develop an evolutionary demography of lifespan in the wild. The project consists of six sub-projects on the life span.