Population Analysis for Planners

Course Content

Welcome to Population Analysis for Planners, an online course developed by Dr. Linda Lacey and reviewed for MEASURE Evaluation by Dr. Ilene Speizer. The purpose of this course is to help planners use population information and analysis to develop, evaluate, and revise regional, district, and local development plans. The course is intended for planners with expertise in a number of areas of planning such as education, health, housing, and community development. It assumes a limited knowledge of population analysis.

Course Objectives

  • Develop skills in using census data and other forms of population information and analysis to develop, evaluate, and revise local plans
  • Learn how to incorporate population growth or decline in planning efforts
  • Recognize and plan for the impact of development efforts on population growth and distribution

At the completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Develop simple demographic profiles to understand past and current trends
  • Estimate sub-area population sizes
  • Project population size into the future
  • Incorporate demographic analysis into the planning process 

About the Course: Course Requirements

A hand calculator can be used for the work presented in the course. In addition to performing basic calculations such as addition, multiplication, division, and subtraction, the calculator must also have function keys capable of taking the square root of numbers, raising numbers to the power of 10, and performing log transformations.

Students are encouraged to use a spreadsheet such as Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3 for projecting population size. The use of spreadsheets, however, is optional. A hand calculator can be used to perform all homework assignments.

It is estimated that the materials in the course will take about 3-4 weeks to complete, provided that students devote about 12 hours per week to the course. It may take less or more time to complete the materials, depending upon how much time can be devoted to the course, including the exercises.

Approaching the Course and Using the Course Materials

This course is an introduction to the use of population analysis in planning. The lessons provide background and techniques to use population information and demographic tools in developing, revising, and evaluating local and regional plans. Suggestions are offered below on how to begin and complete the course. Because students are at different points in their careers, in addition to having different learning styles, each individual will need to identify the best way to use and learn from the materials. 

The Lessons

Suggestions for planners who are in their 1st or 2nd year of work.

Begin with Lesson 1. This lesson provides a definition of planning and introduces the stages of the planning process.

If you have a degree in planning, and/or have spent years developing, revising, and evaluating plans, you may wish to skip Lesson 1, What is the Planning Process. Begin with Lesson 2, Population Analysis and Planning, to learn how population information and tools are used in planning.

How to learn the most from the lessons

Read each lesson at least two times. When beginning a new lesson, read it from start to finish without doing the small exercises. The first reading will help you become familiar with the materials. On the second reading, review the tools, equations, and examples provided in the lesson. Apply the tools using the information in the examples to see if the results from your calculations match those provided in the examples. This will help you learn how to use the tools with your own population information. 

The Exercises

Several small exercises are provided in most of the lessons. Complete the exercises after the second reading of the materials. Answers are provided for each exercise. Completing the exercises and performing all of the calculations presented in the examples will help you gain a mastery of the materials.


Calculations may be performed with either a calculator or a spreadsheet. Tutorials for Microsoft Excel are provided with this course. Other spreadsheet packages may also be used. 

Search engines such as Google may also be used to locate other spreadsheet tutorials. 

This course provides an introduction to population analysis for planners. Upon completion of the course, you may consider enrolling in additional population courses at a nearby institution, or through a distance learning course. An inventory of population-related distance learning courses and software is available through the DAPR Information Clearinghouse. A search feature is available for both distance learning courses and software.

Obtain population estimations and projections for your country; examine the methods and the subsequent results. If possible, speak to those who have performed the projections and estimations to understand why they selected the data and tools for the analysis. Staff from various organizations can also provide population data for your work and possibly review your estimations and projections. Ask to get on mailing lists so you can obtain population related reports on a regular basis. There is increasing use of the web as a dissemination tool for data and statistics. Identify web sites in your country that provide population related information and reports.

Read articles and books on population issues and trends in your country, region, or community to understand the changes that are occurring. Assess the impact of those changes on program plans and revise plans if necessary.

Once new plans or revisions to an existing plan are complete, determine if the proposed activities will influence population behavior. Will a new rural economic development project attract new migrants? If so, determine how the change will impact other aspects of your development plan such as housing, education, and health care and prepare accordingly. 

Comments and Suggestions

Your comments and suggestions for this course are important. Has the course been of help to you in your work? How did it help you? What is missing? Were any of the materials unclear or difficult to understand? Please e-mail measure_training@unc.edu with any comments or suggestions.

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