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Inspiring the next generation of geographers

On Wednesday 30th June, CDRC Co-Director, Dr Nik Lomax, delivered an online talk entitled “Demographic Change and Population Projections” to secondary-school students.

Geography Education Online approached me because population is on the school syllabus and I’ve done lots of work on population estimates and projections1, 2. It was an enjoyable experience and an interesting challenge to translate my expertise and research for a new audience.”

Nik began by talking about why it’s important we have accurate population estimates and projections for planning and policy. “Governments need good evidence in order to make good policy,” he told the students.

Sharing maps and data visualisations from the United Nations, Office for National Statistics and the CDRC, Nik demonstrated a series of trends and outcomes across different areas and population sub-groups.

Screenshot from talk showing a PowerPoint slide and Nik Lomax in small speaker screen

He discussed global population growth and its implications (comparing areas with very different demographic profiles: sub-Saharan Africa and Spain), highlighting how potential support ratios (the number of working age people to those who are retired) would decline over time as populations became older. He then turned his attention to the types of projection models which are routinely used and the demographic inputs to those models, and how varying these inputs could produce very different variant projection scenarios.

Nik talked about the importance of breaking down these demographic inputs by geography and other population attributes, because there’s so much variation between different areas and groups. He used a series of migration schedules and age-specific fertility & mortality rate graphs to demonstrate this variation. He then discussed an example from his own research which demonstrated how ethnic group populations might change under different migration scenarios based around potential policy post-Brexit, showing how diversity would increase in the UK under every scenario.

“I wanted to link to the school syllabus but also provide an example grounded in my research that people wouldn’t have seen before, in this case the migration scenarios for ethnic groups work from this paper.”

“I hope the audience took away the message that these models are very useful but don’t represent the ‘truth’ because the future is uncertain. Projection models are reliant on good data inputs and are sensitive to the assumptions that are made about future trends.” Nik finished by encouraging the audience to have the confidence to look at the data and interrogate the outputs of models, and directed them towards maps.cdrc.ac.uk as a useful resource!

Nik’s talk is available on YouTube

(1)    https://theconversation.com/what-the-uk-population-will-look-like-by-2061-under-hard-soft-or-no-brexit-scenarios-117475

(2)    https://theconversation.com/whats-happened-to-uk-migration-since-the-eu-referendum-in-four-graphs-127891