What are demographics? Have you heard of that term before? What do you think it might mean?
Let’s take a look at some new words and terms. Press each tab to find out what each of these terms mean.
Demographics are statistical (numbers-based) characteristics of a population, or a group of people who inhabit a particular place.
Demography is one branch of sociology, the scientific study of society.
Demographers collect data on a population’s characteristics, such as gender, race, age, disability, mobility, home ownership, education, employment status, and geographical location.
Think about how you will remember these words and definitions as you progress through the course. You may find it helpful to record your reflections in a digital or paper notebook. Choose the option that best supports you as a self-directed learner.
This type of data is widely used in sociology, public policy, and marketing. Based on the definitions you have just learned, what do you think makes a demographic trend?
Demographic trends are the historical changes in demographics in a population over time (for example, the average age of a population, which may increase or decrease over time).
What about demographic shifts?
Demographic shifts are observable changes in the demographics of a population.
Throughout this course, you will be prompted to think and reflect as you move through the learning activities. Think back to the essential questions that are guiding us as we embark on this learning.
Look at this collection of images. What do you notice about the demographics being reflected in these photographs? What section of our society is being highlighted? What demographic trend might this be reflecting?
Read the article on “Life Expectancy in Canada (Opens in new window)” to get a better understanding of this demographic trend. Take notes in your Notebook of the key points and add any new words/terms you have learned.
Since grey hair is a physical sign associated with aging, the term greying population signifies an increasing number of older adults in the population. Based on what you have learned so far, is the term “greying population” a demographic shift or trend? Explain your reasoning.
The greying population is a demographic shift because it is an observable sign of change in the population. This group is changing from middle-aged adults to elderly adults.
In this case, the trend is for people to live longer, especially in wealthier, developed countries, such as Canada.
Did the new learning in that article surprise you? Had you noticed this in your own day-to-day life? Think about your community and whether this describes the people in your world. Knowing what you know about the greying population, how do you see this impacting society?
As we just learned in the “Life Expectancy in Canada” article, Canadians are, on average, living longer. Why do you think this is?
There are many reasons, including medical advances and improved nutrition.
Life expectancy provides an average estimate, not an exact number of years. You could think of your life expectancy as being like the tiny grains of sand that pass through an hourglass. Whether your life is full of action or mostly quiet, you have a limited number of hours. This is just the reality of being a human being on planet Earth.
Life expectancy is based on a person’s age, gender, health indicators (such as whether a person smokes or gets regular exercise), and where a person lives.
Calculate your life expectancy using the Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator or another life expectancy calculator of your choice.
The Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator
Complete this brief questionnaire to calculate your predicted life expectancy.
Using the results from the life expectancy calculator, answer the following questions as best you can.
What is your predicted life expectancy?
How does that make you feel?
Identify three lifestyle or social factors that impact a person’s life expectancy and may impact yours.
What current lifestyle choice might be affecting your lifespan?
Even though a tool like an online life expectancy quiz tries to tackle the question in a mathematical way, does that necessarily mean it is accurate? Why might it not be?
Social scientists use this type of data to make sense of the issues facing individuals and families in Canada’s diverse society. Now, you will begin your work as a social science researcher by interviewing someone you know about life expectancy in their family.
Interview on life expectancy
An interview in qualitative research is a conversation where questions are asked to elicit information. The interviewer has a discussion with the interviewee, typically asking a series of brief questions.
Social scientists collect and analyze data in order to help understand the personal, social, and cultural aspects of human beings—their choices, interactions, and impact. Interviews are one of the ways that social scientists gather information. Ask someone you know, such as an older family member or friend, about the death of their parents or grandparents. How old were those relatives when they died? What factors might have contributed to their deaths? What were their later years like?
Before you conduct your interview, read the article “Tips on conducting qualitative interviews (Opens in new window)” to learn about the ins and outs of the interview process.
Use a cell phone or other device to record this short interview. By recording and saving this interview, you’ll be able to review and assess it later. If possible meet with your interview candidate in person for the interview. If this is impossible you can send them questions in an email, text or even call them on the phone. If you can’t chat with a family member, ask these questions of a friend, relative, or community member. We will be learning more about interviews in subsequent learning activities.
You have been learning to: identify demographic shifts in various populations, identify key topics related to families in Canada, and use effective means to investigate topics, such as interviews. This learning will continue in the following learning activities as we delve into life stages, patterns, and generations.
In your notebook use the 3-2-1 strategy to consolidate your learning:
3 Three new ideas you want to remember
2 Two connections that you made
1 One question that you have for future learning