Lesson 2: Population Analysis and Planning


Course Objective

  • Understand the components of population change
  • Develop skills to use population information in the planning process
  • Understand the impact of planning activities on population size, composition, and distribution

Expected Outcome

Develop skills to use population information to develop and revise plans

Planners are able to successfully implement plans if they can develop programs that meet the present and future needs of different segments of the population. The process of planning was explored in Lesson 1. In this module, strategies to use population analysis to develop, implement, and revise local development plans will be investigated.

2.1: What is Demography?

Demography is the study of human population with respect to size, composition, spatial distribution, and changes in the population that occur over time.

Populations are never static, they grow or decline through the interplay of three demographic processes:

Three Demographic Processes

  1. Fertility
    Number of births that occur to an individual or a population
  2. Mortality
    Death of an individual or the number of deaths that occur in a population
  3. Migration
    The movement of people into or out of a specific geographic area

The number of people in a given area can grow or decline as a result of the number of births that take place, thenumber of deaths that occur and/or by the number of people moving in or out of a locale. Migration can drastically change the size and composition of a population in a brief period of time, especially in small geographic locations.

Planners need to study changes in the composition of the population to plan for education, health care services, and economic development projects. The age of residents, gender, occupation, level of education, marital status, and living arrangements provide planners with the type of information needed to plan for the residents' diverse needs.

Knowing age ranges is of critical importance to planners since it is closely related to the demand for different types of services. A population composition that has a large percentage of residents under age 15 implies the need for schools, primary health services, and recreational needs. Gender is another key factor. For example, women, especially in their early reproductive years, 20–35, may need specialized health services for childbearing.

2.2: Ways Population Analysis is Used in the Private and Public Sectors

Private Sector Planning

In the private sector (e.g., business) demographic information is equal to consumer information. Businesses use population characteristics, and demographic data to:

  • Identify profitable locations for goods and services
    Selection of retail sites is usually based on population composition and the expected growth of its segments.
  • Perform production analysis
    Determine characteristics of potential customers who may buy services or products. This analysis includes how the composition and location of the population are changing over time.
  • Develop advertising strategies
    Marketing products to different segments of the population such as youth, baby boomers, elderly, high income, etc.
  • Perform strategic planning
    Tracking the growth or decline of existing markets, finding new markets and determining what new or existing products are most likely to be successful among different population groups.

The private sector is basically concerned about the "demand" and "location" for products and services. The composition or characteristics of the population is used as indicators of purchasing behavior. The business community also uses population information including estimates of population growth to identify the most profitable locations for goods and services in the future.

Public Sector Planning

Planners in the public sector use demographic information and analysis to assist with a number of planning decisions as indicated below.

  • Planners use population information to determine the demand of services among different segments of the population. Demand is determined by the composition of the population and how it is changing over time — age-sex distribution, martial status, household types, occupation distribution, spatial distribution of the population, educational levels and income levels.
  • Planners also study the present and future composition of the population and its spatial distribution to identify the best locations to provide services to meet local needs.
  • Planners also examine population characteristics to determine the feasibility for new programs. A village may ask the government for a new school. Planners assess the age-sex distribution at present and in the future to determine whether or not its feasible to construct a new facility.
  • Planners are also concerned about the impact of new plans on population change. A new plan to promote rural industries can lead to population growth as new families move into the community for job opportunities. Housing and educational plans may need to be revised to meet the needs of new households that may move into the area.
  • Planners are also concerned about the impact of population growth on the ability to implement existing plans. Planners are interested in how changes in size, spatial distribution and composition will affect efforts to implement various types of plans — housing, social services, and infrastructure such as roads, water supply and electricity.

2.3: Use of Demographic Analysis in the Planning Process

Demographic analysis is needed in all stages of the planning process for both new and revised plans. Population analysis is needed to identify problems and community needs, establish goals and objectives, assess alternative courses of action, allocate resources for plan implementation, and evaluate the ability of the plan to achieve goals and objectives.

An example of how demographic analysis can be used in the planning process is presented in Table 2-1. In the example, a health planner is asked to design a plan to expand primary health care within the district. The planner may use the following demographic analysis and information to develop the plan.

Table 2-1: Demographic Analysis in the Planning Process:
Health Care Example
Planning Process Demographic Analysis
Identify problems and needs
  • Study trends in mortality rates and causes of death among different segments of the population
  • Study trends in fertility to plan for maternal and child health care
  • Project total population size by age-sex structure since it provides insights on the different health needs among different age groups
Goals and objectives Collect information to establish objectives
  • Population size
  • Population composition
  • Geographic distribution
  • Population projections
Generating alternative strategies Collect information on the size, location and composition of the target population to develop alternative strategies to achieve stated goals and objectives.
Select and implement a plan of action Collect demographic data to determine:
  • Demand for services


  • Resource needs including the number of facilities, staff, medicine, and money


  • Locations for new facilities
Monitoring and evaluation Use of demographic indicators to measure the achievement of the objectives. This could include
  • Infant mortality rates
  • Age specific fertility rates
  • Age specific death rates
  • Morbidity statistics

2.4: Learning Exercise

Select one of the case studies below. Try to answer the questions for that case. Present your ideas to another planner to see if they have additional suggestions.

This exercise will be repeated at the end of Lesson 7 to allow measurement of how much has been learned in the course. Answers to the case studies will also be discussed at the end of Lesson 7.

Case Studies

1. Economic Development Planner

You have just been hired as an economic development planner working for a businesswoman who builds large shopping stores and malls in cities. The company wants to build a regional shopping center in a nearby city that is surrounded by a large rural population. To help them conduct a feasibility study, please address the following questions.

  1. What type of population related decisions should be made to determine the best location for the shopping center? For example, is there a demand for new retail stores?
  2. What type of population and related information would you need to collect to help determine the best location for the center?
  3. What types of analysis would you perform with the information?

2. Development Planner with the Ministry of Health

You are on loan to a ministry of health or a local public health department. They have developed an excellent Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) where coverage in 1999 was 78% for all immunizations among children under 5, and 88.5% for children 12–23 months. The Ministry of Health wishes to ensure that babies born in the future in all counties or districts will have access to immunization programs.

Health planners are in the process of developing a new EPI Plan for 2010. You are responsible for helping the health planning staff develop a national plan for the Expanded Program on Immunization for the period 2005–2010.

  1. Identify the types of demographic and related information required to address the problem.
  2. How would you identify districts in the country that may have the greatest need for EPI programs in 2010?
  3. How will you determine how many children will need immunizations by the year 2010?
  4. How would you estimate resource needs at present, and in the future?

3. Land Use Planner: Capital City

You have just moved to the nation's capital to take a new planning position. The planning staff is concerned about the impact of the city's changing population on its ability to implement the existing urban land use plan. You have been asked to write a population analysis report that studies the impact of past, present, and future demographic trends on the comprehensive plan.

  1. What types of population information would you collect to assess the ability of the plan to meet its stated goals and objectives?
  2. What types of statements and/or recommendations will the population information allow you to make about the comprehensive plan?
  3. What types of analysis will you need to conduct to discuss the impact of population trends on the plan?

Answers to Case Studies:

Answer — Case Study 1: Economic Development Planner

Types of decisions

Who should be targeted for retail and service activities? What segments of the population would shop at the shopping center? Where do the potential customers live and work? Where should the shopping center be located to attract the most people? What types of employees are needed and where will they come from? How far will people drive to shop at the center?

In this case study the planner must decide on the types of stores and services that can be profitable at the regional shopping center. The potential demand for goods and services is based on the population characteristics of the area. He or she must examine the past, current and future characteristics of the population in the region. The planner also needs to analyze this information spatially (by census tracts, or other geographic units) to select possible locations. The planner must also identify labor needs, that is the type of work force that is required to work in the mall.

Population Information

A demographic profile that includes population trends and changes in the composition of the population including age and sex, income levels, occupation, educational attainment and household size can help identify potential customers for the shopping center. The profile can also help determine available labor for jobs in sales and services. Much of this information is available in census reports.

Types of analysis

Tools that project the total population size such as prorating and extrapolation tools can assist the planner in determining the future population size of potential locations. A demographic profile that includes an assessment of past and current population trends and changes in the composition of the population including income levels, occupation, educational attainment and household size can also help determine the best location to build the regional shopping center.

The cohort component projection allows the planner to understand the characteristics of future customers and future labor for the shopping center. Youth between the ages of 16—24 and women with young children tend to work part time as sales clerks. The projection also provides information on the number of different types of potential customers. Youth ages 12—20 spend a great deal of money on entertainment and clothes. Older adults in the 30—50 age groups purchase items for the home and household. The planner will use this tool to see which age groups have the highest proportion of people. Information on the growth or decline of segment of the population combined with economic data on shopping patterns can help determine the types of stores and services to place in the mall.

Answer — Case Study 2: Development Planner with the Ministry of Health

Development Planner with the Ministry of Health

This case study requires the planner to project the number of children that will require immunizations in the year 2010. For this case study, the planner must plan health care services for children that have not been born.

Demographic information

A demographic profile that includes assessments of fertility trends is needed. This includes studying the age specific fertility rate, the total fertility rate and the general fertility rate for several points in time. The objective is to determine if fertility is declining, increasing or remaining the same. High levels of fertility suggest that a country will have a high proportion of youth. Information on factors that influence fertility should also be collected such as data on infant mortality and child mortality rates, family planning use (contraceptive prevalence rates) and educational and career opportunities for women. Census data and fertility studies are needed for the analysis. Demographic and Health Surveys provide a wealth of information on fertility trends, infant and child mortality rates, current coverage of childhood immunizations and family planning use.

As part of the profile, the planner can develop several population pyramids to observe past, present and future growth in the number of children under the age of 5 and the number of women in their reproductive years. Tables that display the age and sex distribution of the country for several points in time should accompany the pyramids to help observe changes that are taking place.

Identifying Districts with the Greatest Need

The cohort component projection tool allows the planner to project the number of births that will take place during the projection period. In this case it would be 2 projection cycles, from years 2000–2005 and from years 2005–2010. The number of projected births will help the planner determine the number of health clinics, staff, vehicles and medicine to procure to meet future needs. Cohort component projections for all districts in the country will help the Ministry of Health determine which districts will require the most resources in future years.

Determining How Many Children Will Need Immunizations

The cohort component method uses age-specific fertility rates to determine the number of expected births that will occur during the projection period. This information can be useful in determining the expected number of new children that will require immunizations. These projections can be calculated for all districts.

Estimating Resources Needs

The cohort component projection provides information on the future number of children under age 5 for each district. Projections of the expected number of children under age 5, along with information on existing staff, medicine, clinics, and other available resources, will help the Ministry of Health allocate resources among the districts.

Answer — Case Study 3: Land Use Planner: Capital City

In this case study the city planning agency is concerned about the impact of population growth and change on its ability to implement its urban land use plan. These plans are usually developed to guide the physical, social and economic development of a city for a 20-year period. The plan guides decisions concerning residential, commercial, industrial and recreational uses of land. These plans also guide decisions concerning the spatial location of infrastructure such as public water and sewer facilities, roads and public transportation, and community facilities such as schools, parks, health clinics and hospitals, and fire and police protection.

Types of population information

To understand the impact of population change on implementing the comprehensive, the planner must study past, current and future population trends. This includes changes in the current and future size of the population as well as changes in the composition of the population.

Examining changes in the composition

The unit of analysis is the census tract or other unit of geographic measurement within the city. The planner wants to know where growth or decline is taking and among which segments of the population. Maps are needed to spatially indicate changing demographic characteristics in the city. Analysis of the composition includes an investigation into the age and sex structure, occupation, education, income, ethnicity, and household structure and size. The planners may also wish to examine changes in the housing characteristics in the city to determine where the quality of housing has increased or decreased. The census of housing can help planners revised housing strategies and infrastructure plans.

Statements and recommendations

The population analysis can help the planner make recommendations on whether the agency should revise the goals and objectives and planned programs of the plan. The analysis can also support recommendations for the best physical locations to allocate expand services.

Types of analysis

The cohort component projection tool helps planners determine if the results of the latest census will continue into the future. For example, the planner may wish to see if increases in the city's elderly will continue into the future. The results could show that facilities and services for senior citizens should be expanded. As mentioned above, demographic profiles are needed for each census tract to determine where growth is taking place and among which segments of the population.

These answers are not complete, but instead, are designed to help you think about the use of population information and tools in planning.


George W. Barclay, "The Nature of Demography," Techniques of Population Analysis (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1958) 1–15.

Dowell Myers and Lee Menifee, "Population Analysis," The Practice of Local Government Planning, ed. Charles J. Hoch (Washington, D.C: International City/County Management Association, 2000) 61–86.

Richard K. Thomas, "Using Demographic Analysis in Health Services Planning: A Case Study in Obstetrical Services," Demographics: A Casebook for Business and Government, eds. Hallie J. Kintner, Thomas W. Merrick, Peter A. Morrison and Paul R. Voss (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994) 159–179.



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