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Course 2023-2024 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English

Go to class group/s: 31

BIEF (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-S/04)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (I sem.)

Synchronous Blended: Lezioni erogate in modalità sincrona in aula (max 1 ora per credito online sincrona)

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 the current 8 to 10/12 billion. Growth however is not homogeneous 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 have been only momentarily 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 twofold: First, to provide the methodological tools to understand population change and dynamics. Second, to introduce core demographic concepts to encourage critical thinking about both classical and contemporary population debates (and its challenges) and to reflect on population issues as reported 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 historical developments of the world population, the course focuses on the analysis of current demographic trends and key demographic challenges: over-population versus extremely low fertility, ageing, sustainable development and the future of the world population, further demographic issues in developing countries and in the Western world, including international migration, and related population policies.


The course has an introductory and applied style:  

·     The long term dynamics of the world population and the Demographic Transition as passage from constraint to choice. 

·     Analytical demographic tools for the study of population dynamics (including the actuarial approach).   

·     Population, resources, and environment.   

·     Contemporary population in developing countries: comparative case studies and the slow transition of the African continent.   

·     Contemporary population in developed countries: low fertility, population ageing and its social and political consequences  

·     International migration: theories, evidence, and political debates.   

·     The uncertain future of populations: towards a convergence of demographic behaviour and the environmental challenges 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)
At the end of the course student will be able to...

Students will be able:

- to define the relevant world population issues and challenges for the future; 

- to distinguish population issues of more developed and less developed areas of the world;

- to illustrate the main socio-economic consequences of major population trends;

- to recognize and describe the meanings of key demographic indicators. 


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

Students will be able to interpret the main demographic indicators.

Students will prepare the case study of a specific country/area according to the demographic methods, indicators and trends learnt in the course. 

Students will have a critical view on population debate in the mass media.  

Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face 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 x
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • x    
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • x    
  • Active class participation (virtual, attendance)
  • x    

    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 first part of the course and another partial written exam based on the second part of the course. The written exam consists of short questions (without numerical exercises which will be done only in take home assignments).


    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

    All the material and specific references (book chapters and papers) will be all available on BlackBoard

    Last change 04/06/2023 22:49