This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Demographic Influences on Democracy

Thanks to Greg Weeks for pointing me to a blog post by political scientist Jay Ulfelder in which he statistically analyzes the link between median age and the transition to democracy. He is building on work by Richard Cincotta on the relationship between age structure and democracy. Cincotta's ideas first examined the destabilizing role played by young age structures. Indeed, Debbie Fugate and I included a paper by Cincotta as a chapter in our book, The Youth Bulge: Challenge or Opportunity? In that paper, Cincotta lays out his argument as follows: analysis of recent demographic and political trends shows that countries with a large proportion of young adults in the working-age population (referred to as a “youth bulge”) are much less likely to attain a stable liberal democracy than countries with a more mature age structure. If fertility continues to decline and age structure contin- ues to mature in many of the world’s current youth-bulge countries, analysts should expect most of these states to ultimately attain and maintain liberal democracy. Of course, there will be exceptions; since the early 1970s, charismatic authoritarian leaders and single-party ideological elites have demonstrated a capacity to resist democratization, persisting even as their countries’ age structures matured.
Ulfelder was provided with a new spreadsheet of median age data by Cincotta and his analysis essentially confirms Cincotta's thesis:
Consistent with Cincotta’s argument and other things being equal, countries with higher median age are more likely to transition to democracy than countries with younger populations.
As Ulfelder himself notes, the use of median age ignores the varied aspects of the age transition that will influence a society, but certainly these results suggest the political importance of the age structure. This is put into the context of modernization theory, and I don't necessarily disagree with that since demographic theory generally attributes the drop in both mortality and fertility (with the latter promoting an aging of the population) to modernization processes.  

1 comment:

  1. Paying people to marry young?