Demographic Metabolism: A Theory of Socioeconomic Change with Predictive Power

Wolfgang Lutz, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Inspired by the work on social change through generational/cohort replacement of Karl Mannheim and Norman Ryder—who coined the notion of Demographic Metabolism—this paper suggests the application of the methods of multi-dimensional mathematical demography to forecast the changing composition of the population by relevant individual characteristics that go far beyond the traditional age, sex and place of residence. This theory can make quantitative predictions of socioeconomic change with only a narrow margin of uncertainty for decades into the future. The paper gives two examples of predictions based on this theory: one for the hard and sticky characteristic of highest educational attainment and another for the soft and more volatile characteristic of European identity. This new theory has the potential to finally providing the social sciences with a paradigm with true (quantitative) predictive power for decades into the future.

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Presented in Session 24: Innovative Theory and Methods for Demographic Research