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Population Composition

Population Composition

You probably know the rough size of your country's population, but do you know much about its population composition? Populations are comprised of a variety of different people, with varying ages, genders, ethnicities, levels of education, and relationship statuses. This is known as population composition, i.e., the breakdown of characteristics in a population. These components of the population are used in a variety of ways and are critical in understanding the different methods of which society functions in. Let's take a look.

Population Composition Definition

Population composition breaks down where and how people live. This is critical in order to gain knowledge of cultural, political, health, and economic patterns of society across the globe.

Population composition is the different characteristics within a population that can describe a population.

Population composition allows the comparison, analysis, and prediction of factors within populations such as death rates and growth rates. This is because population composition provides a structured way of viewing a population, which can help governments make decisions regarding planning in a country, as well as whether to enforce changes to populations via population policies. The composition of a population allows us to gain an understanding of the population.

Elements of Population Composition

Essentially, population composition involves everything and anything that can be labelled within society. The main elements of population composition are age, sex, and ethnicity. Let's break down each of these elements further:

Population Composition ElementExplanation
AgeAge is one of the major elements of population composition. Different age groups of a population can be divided into three categories: child (0-14 years old), adult (15-64) and elder (65 years old and above). The child age group and elder age group combined makeup the dependents of a population. The dependency ratio (the number of dependents in a population) is a major tool used when comparing data regarding age.
Sex

Sex is also a major element of population composition. The sex ratio (the number of males to females within a population), is used to represent the difference in the number of males to females within a population.

EthnicityEthnicity is measured by ethnic groups that share cultural and historical backgrounds.Ethnicity is not the same as race.
Distribution and DensityThis is how "spread out" a population is. It shows the spatial pattern between the size of the place and the size of the population.
WealthWealth can inform other characteristics in a population, such as education and spatial distribution. It also examines thewealthiest or poorest within a population.
EducationEducation is measured to see the different levels of education within a population.
Marital StatusMarriage status shows the different relationship statuses of members within a population.
FertilityFertility is the number of live births in a population. It is often measured per 1000 women of childbearing age, which is usually 15-44 years of age.
MortalityThe mortality within a population shows the average number of deaths, and average life expectancy, but can also show growth in a population when combined with fertility.

Types of Population Composition

The data from the various characteristics of population composition can be presented in population pyramids. Age structure and sex ratio can be analyzed and mapped across a variety of scales to show patterns within populations.

Population Composition, Population Pyramid Using Age and Sex, StudySmarter

Fig 1. Population Pyramid Using Age and Sex.

Age and sex are the two most common elements that are combined in population pyramids. Ultimately, population pyramids are charts that show these factors and therefore show patterns of change within populations, including population growth and population decline.

Check out our explanation of Population Pyramids to gain a more in-depth understanding.

Population Composition Examples

Within society, population composition is used in a variety of ways.

  • Politics – to advise targeted campaigns.
  • Science – in research questions and answers.
  • Marketing – in advertisement.
  • Government and policymakers – preparing for the future.

Population composition can also contribute to viewing any changes in the population. The various factors that makeup population composition (as stated above), can be monitored to see where the shifts in a population have occurred, if any. A worldwide Census is conducted in order to collect the data composition of a population. A Census includes a series of questions regarding yourself that are asked to the public. The data collected tells the government the overall composition of the population. This allows the government to check for any trends and any changes in trends when compared to the previous Census, which can help the government decide how to distribute funding and services across the nation.

Importance of Population Composition

Population composition can allow geographers to portray and analyze populations. As stated earlier, this can be done mostly through data regarding age, sex, and ethnicity, but how is this useful? What is the importance of population composition?

Firstly, it is key for all countries to know their population composition. This is because it can help to organize how much infrastructure and services (such as roads, schools, hospitals, homes, and jobs) the country needs. Essentially, the composition of a population is useful for the purpose of planning for its present needs, but also for future needs.

Age

Age is key in population composition because it has such a large impact on socioeconomic policies. It can allow the government to make decisions regarding the economy. The dependency ratio is used to indicate how much economic stress will occur in a country. Typically, youthful populations are less economically developed, whereas aging populations are more developed. This is because youthful populations have high fertility rates and consequently high numbers of children who do not work. Whereas, in more developed countries due to high-quality services, such as health care, there is a higher life expectancy which means people can remain in the workforce for longer.

Sex

Understanding gender across a population is important for development. This is because, in some countries, gender norms and patriarchal structure exists to the extent that opportunities and lifestyles are completely dependent upon gender. Referring to data regarding the sex ratio of a country can help to navigate social pressures and effects on different genders within a country. Typically, a country with a higher proportion of one gender is likely to suffer more due to these social pressures and factors.

Sex is generally the biological features of a person, which compromise of male and female. Whereas, gender is the expression and how the person identifies. Gender also includes societal norms and structures expected by people within the world.

A population is typically expected to be around 1:1 male to female. However, often there are naturally a slightly higher number of males. This is because female mortality is slightly higher than male mortality in the womb throughout the pregnancy. Occasionally, the sex ratio can be skewed, with significantly higher amounts of males compared to females, for example in China. Males in China are seen as the main economic providers of the family, therefore many families preferred a male child over a female child during China's One Child Policy.

Ethnicity

Gaining an understanding of ethnicity can help to combat any problems of inequality. Data regarding ethnicity can help identify issues in the economy, particularly in health care. This is because ethnicity can present socioeconomic positions of people, which can affect access to health care. Additionally, racism can affect health care access and quality. It is also important as it can influence sociopolitical factors, particularly in nations that are very ethnically diverse.

Sri Lanka is very ethnically diverse, with a variety of different ethnic groups. Politics is also ethnically based. This means that decisions regarding political choices are made by people within Sri Lankan society, depending on their ethnic group. Thus highlighting the importance of understanding ethnicity in a population.

Population Composition, A Map Showing the Various Ethnic Groups of Sri Lanka, StudySmarterFig 2. A Map Showing the Various Ethnic Groups of Sri Lanka.

Other Factors

The other factors that also contribute to population composition are also significant due to their influence of economic, political, and social factors. For example, education and marital status can impact the economy and politics. Distribution and density can affect the social relationships in society. And, wealth can impact the economy, society, and politics. Each of these elements of population composition does this in different ways. However, through the collection of population composition data, governments can plan ways in which the distribution of wealth, infrastructure, and services is received throughout a population. As well as monitoring the population in general in order to detect if population policies are required. This would be implemented if a population is considered too young, or too old, and therefore impacts the economy of the country.

Check out our explanation of Population Policies for more on this matter.

Population Composition - Key takeaways

  • Population composition refers to the various characteristics that make a population.

  • Age, sex, and ethnicity are the three major elements of population composition.

  • The remaining population composition elements include distribution and density, wealth, education, marital status, fertility, and mortality.

  • Age and sex are the two elements that tend to be combined the most to be used in data such as population pyramids, which can help evaluate population growth and population decline.

  • Population composition is important because the data helps in planning a country's requirements and needs.


References

  1. Fig 1. Population Pyramid Using Age and Sex. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Population_pyramid_1_(triangle).PNG) by Imoen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Imoen) licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en).

Frequently Asked Questions about Population Composition

Population composition is what comprises a population, including age, sex, and ethnicity.

The three types of population composition include age, sex, and ethnicity. 

The elements of population composition are age, sex, ethnicity, size, distribution and density, wealth, fertility, mortality, education, and marriage status. 

The three important attributes of population composition are age, sex, and ethnicity. 

Population composition is important because it helps predict socioeconomic trends, which can help decide what planning and services are required in a population.

Final Population Composition Quiz

Question

If a population pyramid is very wide at the bottom and very narrow at the top, what can we infer about the population?

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Answer

They are in a developing country.

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Question

What does The Demographic Transition Model show us in terms of population pyramids?

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Answer

It shows us how population pyramids evolve.

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Question

If a population pyramid is top-heavy with many old age people compared with youth, what could you infer about the population?

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Answer

They are very developed. 

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Question

What can cause a population pyramid to change shape?

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Answer

A drop in mortality rates.

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Question

What is measured in a population pyramid?

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Answer

The population per age group.

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Question

If you see a sudden dip in a population pyramid what might be a reasonable explanation for it?

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Answer

The population went through some type a conflict at that time. 

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Question

What is a characteristic of a population in stage two of the Demographic Transition Model?

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Answer

High fertility rates.

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Question

What are some reasons a population pyramid might not follow The Demographic Transition Model?

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Answer

Conflict.

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Question

If a population has a box shape pyramid with a triangle on top, they are likely in what stage of The Demographic Transition Model?

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Answer

3.

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Question

What countries have abnormal population pyramids?

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Answer

Russia.

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Question

What is population composition?

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Answer

The different characteristics that comprise a population.

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Question

What are the three main elements of population composition?

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Answer

Age, sex, and ethnicity.

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Question

What are the nine elements of population composition?

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Answer

Age, sex, ethnicity, distribution and density, wealth, education, marriage status, fertility, and mortality.

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Question

Fill in the blanks. The sex ratio is generally 1:1, but occasionally there is a higher amount of ____ to ____. 

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Answer

Males, females.

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Question

What element of population composition shows the spatial pattern between size of place and size of population?

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Answer

Distribution and density.

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Question

Why should countries know their population composition?

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Answer

To analyze important data and help in organizing planning for socioeconomic opportunities and policies.   

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Question

True or false? Age has an impact on socioeconomic policies.

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Answer

True.

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Question

True or false? The sex ratio cannot help to understand the social pressures and effects on different genders within a country.

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Answer

False.

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Question

Why is ethnicity important in population composition?

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Answer

It can help identify problems in the economy and any inequalities, as well as influence sociopolitical factors such as political votes.

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Question

Which country is a good example of a population containing many ethnic groups that can impact political decision within the country?

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Answer

Sri Lanka

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Question

What is the Census?

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Answer

A series of questions that tells the government the composition of the population.

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Question

What data can mortality rate show in a population?

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Answer

Mortality rate, life expectancy, and population growth/decline.

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Question

How is wealth used in population composition?

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Answer

To show the gap between the wealthiest and poorest within the population.

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Question

What is the dependency ratio?

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Answer

The number of dependents in a population.

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