8 Rules and 7 Regional Forecasting Tables

(the 7 regional tables appear below this text, and can be downloaded in an Excel workbook form: Regional Table Workbook)

The principal goal of numerical political demography has been to give analysts a testable theory that could be put to work to help them do a better job at anticipating political change and stasis. A discussion of political demography’s forecasts have become a fixture in the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends publications (see the NIC’s latest addition to the GT series, “Paradox of Progress”, pages 161-167). Still, we seem far from the day when young analysts in the US intelligence community routinely consider political demography’s “basic rules” as essential analytical tools.

In this short essay, I present the world in 7 Regional Forecasting Tables. These feature a regional collection of countries, all with populations over 500,000. The countries are arranged by median age: highest median age (most mature age structure) at the top; lowest median age (least mature age structure) at the bottom. With these tables, and with some practice, analysts should be able to acquire insights into their near and medium-term future.

First, a set of eight “rules” (theoretical expectations) for working with these tables:

    1. Expect states at the top of the list, the most age-structurally mature, to experience the best chance of being a liberal democracy – that is, to be assessed as Free in Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World global survey (most analysts consider Free status to be synonymous with liberal democracy).
    2. Expect states that have a youthful age structure (below a median age of 25.5 years) to be the least likely to be assessed as Free, and the most likely to be engaged in intra-state conflict of either low or high intensity, as measured by the .
    3. Where revolutions occur in a state with a youthful population, expect either the authoritarian regime to remain in power, or to be replaced by another authoritarian regime (typically Not Free or low-level Partly Free, as measured by Freedom House).
    4. Expect states that achieve Free while youthful to lose this rating within a decade. There is a long history of this effect (look to Mali for a recent example).
    5. Expect states with a population of less than 5 million to be the most likely to break rules 1, 2, 3 and 4 (and see the UN Population Division for reliable population data).
    6. Expect states that are ruled by an ideological single-party regime or another type of ideological political monopoly – for example, Iran’s theocracy – to mature without liberalization. China and North Korea are other prominent examples.
    7. Expect states led by a revolutionary (Cuba under Castro, Venezuela under Chavez) or a charismatic reformer (Russia under Putin, Turkey under Erdogan, Singapore under Lee Kwan Yu) to resist attaining Free.
    8. Expect a state ruled by a military autocrat, or junta, or an absolute monarch to yield to a more liberal regime before the population attains a mature age-structure (before a median age of 35.5 years).


The Seven Regional Forecasting Tables (showing states with populations over 500,000)