Insegnamento a.a. 2020-2021


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
CLEAM (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-S/04) - CLEF (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-S/04) - CLEACC (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-S/04) - BESS-CLES (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-S/04) - WBB (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-S/04) - BIEF (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-S/04) - BIEM (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-S/04) - BIG (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-S/04) - BEMACS (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-S/04)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (II sem.)

Suggested background knowledge

For this course it is recommended to possess knowledge of basic statistcs, basic mathematics (i.e., logarithms and exponential function) and some experience using Excel spreadsheet package.

Mission & Content Summary


The earth has never held as many humans as it does now and the world is currently in the midst of an enormous demographic transition. Over the next century, the global population is projected to increase from 7 to 12 billion. Growth however is not homogenous around the world. Low income countries (particularly in Africa) grow rapidly, while Western Europe and East Asia are expected to decline in size and to age. Life expectancy increases are now reversed by COVID-19 pandemic, which hit harder the ageing developed countries. The across countries and within countries differences are linked more than ever to economic individual and macro economic conditions; the demographic perspectives - difficult to change and manage - cannot be disregarded to understand the world's future. The course is an introduction to the contemporary population issues that accompany such dramatic population change, including ageing, migration, urbanization, environmental destruction, COVID-19 pandemic. The goals of the course are to provide the methodological tools to understand population change; to introduce some of the core concepts and classical debates of population studies; to encourage critical thinking about the presentation of population issues in popular media.


The course analyses the interrelationships between population dynamics and social and economic dynamics, in a comparative and international perspective. After an introduction to the long-term developments of the world population, the course focuses on the analysis of current demographic trends and key demographic issues: sustainable development and the future of the world population, demographic problems in developing countries and in the Western world, and population policies. The topics and tools presented in this course are useful for students interested in mid and long term socio-economic dynamics, population history, sustainable development, inequality and the role of international organizations. The course has an introductory and applied style and covers the following topics:

  • Long term dynamics of the world population. The Demographic Transition: a passage from constraint to choice? 
  • Analytical tools for the study of population dynamics. 
  • Land, labor and population. From Malthus to Boserup, to neo-Malthusian.
  • Population, resources and environment. 
  • Contemporary population in developing countries: the comparative case studies of China and India; the late demographic transition of the African continent. 
  • Contemporary population in Europe and other developed countries: low fertility and population ageing.
  • International migration: theories, evidence, political debate. 
  • International demographic research: institutional data sources and sample survey projects, basic methods and demographic indicators. 
  • The uncertain future of population: towards a convergence of demographic behaviour in the post-transition regime? The European and international situation, forecasts and projections.
  • The effect of population demographic structure on COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of it on population and demographic processes.


Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...

  • Describe differences in historical and contemporary demographic paths by geographical macro-area.
  • Identify the role of population and demographic trends fort the future of the world.
  • Describe and measure the processes of fertility, migration and mortality in historical and contemporary perspective.
  • Summarize contemporary population policy debates.
  • Understand the interaction between population structure and COVID-19  pandemic


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Estimate the basic indicators of population structure.
  • Apply demographic methods to compute measures of population processes.
  • Analyze and compare country differences in terms of demographic behaviour.
  • Discuss the role of population for the economic development and for the environment in historical, contemporary and future perspectives.

Teaching methods

  • Online lectures
  • Exercises (exercises, database, software etc.)
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Individual assignments
  • Group assignments


The learning experience of this course includes, in addition to lectures, the solution of “take home” assignments given to to students throughout the course and then discussed in class. Students have the possibility to apply the demographic methods acquired during the course, to discuss specific country cases, to bring their own views on population issues and to share their insights.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  x x
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Active class participation (virtual, attendance)


With the purpose of measuring the acquisition of the above-mentioned learning outcomes, the attending students assessment is based on three main components:

  1. Individual assignments (25% of the final grade), i.e. take home numerical exercises,  designed with the purpose of verifying the ability to apply the the appropriate demographic tools and methodologies acquired in class.
  2. Case study (25% of the final grade), designed to the purpose of using relevant official  data; to comment critically specific case; to work individually or in teams and organize and present effectively the relevant outcome.
  3. A written exam (50% of the final grade) – divided in a partial written exam after the the first part of the course and another partial written exam based on the second part of the course. The written exam consists of short and longer questions.

Students are assessed in terms of their understanding of theoretical models, main concepts, methods and tools shared in the course as well as the clarity of written communication.


For the non-attending students assessment is based on a general final exam covering all material covered in the course. The written exam consists of short and longer questions related to the reference book and papers and numerical exercises. Students are assessed in terms of their understanding of theoretical models, main concepts, methods and tools shared in the course as well as the clarity of written communication.

Teaching materials


Material will be available on BlackBoard

Last change 14/12/2020 14:02