Population refers to all the people living within a defined geographical area. This can be within a country, a state, a city, or a community. The study of the population is called demography. Population studies called a census are often done to get reliable information about the growth and makeup of the population.       

The kind of information gathered in a census include:

Birth rate
Death rate
Age: sex ratio
Male to female ratio
Number of people employed
Number of people unemployed
Dependency ratio
Ethnic composition
Rate of migration
Total population

A census is important because the information gathered informs the government how best to create and implement policies. It helps the government to make decisions in terms of:

  • Land use
  • Budgeting for social welfare programs
  • Provision of education
  • Provision of health care
  • Provision of infrastructures such as roads, electricity, and water

Two examples of how a census informs decision-making are as follows:

If the census shows a significant increase in birth rates, the government will need to plan for increased funding in education as within a short time there will be more students in school.

If a census shows that there is an aging population (senior citizens are living longer) then attention will need to be given to the health sector as these senior citizens will require more medical and healthcare services.

There are numerous factors that cause the population to fluctuate. The population number and composition is influenced by the birth, infant mortality rate, migration, and death rate.

Crude birth rate
This refers to the number of live births per 1000 persons within a specified period (typically 1 year).

Crude death rate
This refers to the number of deaths per 1000 persons within a specified period (typically 1 year) in a population.

Infant mortality rate
This refers to the number of deaths per 1000 infants below the age of one year old.

Fertility rate
The fertility rate is the number of births per female within a year.

Life expectancy
Life expectancy is the average number of years members of the population are expected to live. In the past, the average life expectancy was rather low. This was because of low infant mortality rates as well as diseases that had no known cure.

There were also many deaths caused by unsanitary practices as back then people were unaware of the existence of microbes such as bacteria.

Today life expectancy has increased with the introduction of antibiotics, better sanitary practices, and advancements in the field of healthcare. Some of the factors that affect life expectancy are:

Types of diet
Healthy lifestyle such as a balanced diet, exercise, and abstaining from narcotics
Sanitary practices
Availability of medical care
Levels of employment and wages
Stress factors


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