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Demography is a social science that organizes population facts into a statistical analysis. A demographer organizes numbers to produce new and useful information. For example, demographers may study data collected on the frequency of disease in a certain area, develop graphs and charts to plot the spread of that disease, and then forecast the probability that the medical problem may spread.
Many demographers take a sample from a population. For example, demographers may collect data on the educational level of residents living in various locations throughout a community. They can use this information to make a projection of the average educational level of the community as a whole. In this way, demographers conduct research and forecast trends on various social and economic patterns throughout an area.
Demographers not only conduct their own surveys but also often work with statistics gathered from government sources, private surveys, and public opinion polls. They may compare different statistical information, such as an area's average income level and its population, and use it to forecast the community's future educational and medical needs. They may tabulate the average age, income, educational levels, crime rate, and poverty rate of a farming community and compare the results with the same statistics of an urban environment.
Computers have radically changed the role of the demographer. Now, much greater amounts of data can be collected and analyzed. In the U.S. Census Bureau, for example, demographers work with material that has been compiled from the nationwide census conducted every 10 years. Millions of pieces of demographic information, such as age, gender, occupation, educational level, and country of origin, are collected from people around the country. A demographer may take this statistical information, analyze it, and then use it to forecast population growth or economic trends.
Demographers investigate and analyze a variety of social science questions for the government, such as rates of illness, availability of health and police services, and other issues that define a community. Private companies may use the information to make marketing decisions, such as where to open a new store and how best to reach possible customers.
Demographers may work on long-range planning. Population trends are especially important in such areas as educational and economic planning, and a demographer's analysis is often used to help set policy on health care issues and a host of other social concerns. Local, state, and national government agencies all use the demographer's statistical forecasts in an attempt to accurately provide transportation, education, and other services.
Demographers may teach demographic research techniques to students. They also work as consultants to private businesses. Much of their time is spent doing library research, analyzing demographic information of various population groups.
An applied statistician, a specialized type of demographer, uses accepted theories and known statistical formulas to collect and analyze data in a specific area, such as the availability of health care in a specified location.