The 4 Dividends: PRB’s Pace Project

See the Population Reference Bureau’s excellent video explaining the “Four Dividends” that countries generally attain following fertility decline as they pass through the demographic window. These four dividends are: (1) child survival, (2) educational attainment, (3) per-capita income, and (4) political stability (measured by 10-year risk of intra-state conflict).

Here are links to obtain the IUSSP Conference paper (authored by Elizabeth Madsen and me) that describes the timing of these changes, in terms of the movement of countries through the age-structural transition. A background paper on the Age-structural Theory of State Behavior is published in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.  Some of this information is published in a short essay on the “Eight Rules of Political Demography“, on the New Security Beat.



Sub-Saharan Africa: Looking Toward the Demographic Window

Over the past 25 years, economic and political demographers have focused on documenting the improvements in state capacity and political stability that have been realized in the wake of fertility declines in much of East Asia, Latin America, and most recently in the Maghreb of North Africa (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria). Nonetheless, foreign affairs, defense and intelligence analysts still seem confused over when and where this demographic dividend should occur—and whether the youthful, low-income states of Sub-Saharan Africa are due to experience the dividend’s economically favorable age structures anytime soon. Because two very different development narratives vie for these analysts’ attention, their confusion is not that surprising.

     In this essay, I discuss the concept of “the demographic window” and compare economists’ perspectives on sub-Saharan Africa to that of political demographers.  I also identify 4 groups of countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have very different schedules for reaching the demographic window (and thus reaching the World Bank’s upper middle income category and other development milestones). For the entire essay, posted in the Woodrow Wilson Center’s New Security Beatsee this page.

Download this New Security Beat essay on Sub-Saharan Africa’s Demographic Window .

Article: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

The Age-structural Theory of State Behavior

Richard Cincotta

ABSTRACT: Over the past three decades, economic and political demographers, using various measures, have discerned that increased age-structural maturity makes significant statistical contributions to levels of per capita income, to educational attainment, to declines in the frequency of onsets of intrastate conflict, and to the likelihood of achieving and maintaining liberal democracy. Some of the stronger statistical relationships have been used in forecasts. For example, using the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) demographic projections, political demographers have relied on the strong statistical association between age structure and stable liberal democracy to forecast the rise of democracy in North Africa more than two years in advance (in 2008)—at a time when regional experts believed that forecast to be absurd.

Whereas critics remain skeptical of the murky causal connections of age-structural theory, its proponents counter that causality in the development of state capacity is complex and is less important than the theory’s positive qualities (namely, that it is forward-looking, its statistical findings are easily repeated, its forecasts have out-competed regional experts, and its predictive products can be readily adapted to the needs of intelligence foresight, defense planning, and foreign policy analysis). Perhaps most important, the age-structural theory of state behavior has yielded a surprising number of “novel facts”—new knowledge concerning the observed pace and timing of state political, social, and economic behaviors.

Full article is published in: 

Cincotta, R. (2017) “The Age-structural Theory of State Behavior.” In William Thompson (Ed.), Oxford Research Encyclopedia: Politics, Oxford Univ. Press. DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637 .013.327;

The full article is downloadable here or request article from author (click here).

And it is available as a web article at the Oxford Research Encyclopedia site, at Oxford University Press.


Majority – Minority Ethnodemographic Differences

Minority Youth Bulges and State Stability


Read about Ethnodemographic Differences and majority-minority relations (first posted in The New Security Beat, 2012).  Since its appearance, this two-by-two model of sub-state demographic differences has been increasingly used as a means of spotting escalating ethnic tensions and warning of future armed conflicts.

Read an application of the model (Barnhart et al., 2015, “The Refugee Crisis in the Levant”); and others by Rachel Blomquist on Myanmar’s Rohingya conflict (Fall, 2016; Spring, 2016).



Figure 1. Two-by-two sub-state model of majority-minority relations, based on the age structural configurations of the majority and a politically organized minority population. Where there is no external interference, the “demographic integration” condition is hypothesized to be the most politically stable.




Population Aging: A Demographic and Geographic Overview

Read “Population Aging: A Demographic and Geographic Overview” by Richard Cincotta, published in the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030 blog, and in the New Security Beat, July, 2012. Download “Population Aging: A Demographic and Geographic Overview” here …

This GT2030 blog, focused on population aging, begins with this introductory essay aimed at familiarizing readers with some of the demographic and geographic particulars of this phenomenon, and with several key demographic terms. The term most in need of definition is, of course, population aging. Strictly speaking, aging is any shift in the population’s age structure (the distribution of individuals, by age) that produces an increase in the median age (the age of the individual for whom one-half of the population is younger). Generally, advances in a population’s median age are associated with increases in the proportion of seniors (aged 65 years and older), and declines in the proportion of children (younger than 15). Sustained population aging leads to a relatively older workforce, slowed workforce growth and slowed growth among school-age children.
While various age-specific patterns of birth, death and migration can induce change in the median age, over the past century two demographic processes have contributed most powerfully to country-level population aging. First and foremost is declining fertility (fertility is usually measured by computing the total fertility rate (TFR), an immediate estimate of the number of children that women are bearing over their reproductive lifetime). The second most influential factor has been increasing longevity. Not all trends associated with modernization, however, contribute to aging. Declines in childhood mortality have served to slow aging’s pace or make it retreat, as have waves of youthful immigrants (until the immigrants themselves age) and occasio
nal baby booms.

Is an advance in the median age bad news? That depends on “where you are” the broad diversity of age structures suggested by today’s lengthy spectrum of median ages—which in 2012 stretches from around 16 years (Niger, Uganda, Mali) to around 45 (Japan, Germany). For states in the youthful phase of the age-structural transition (median age 25.4 years or less; see Figure 1), the near-term net economic, social, political outcomes of aging are overwhelmingly positive. Getting to the next next age-structural phase— the intermediate phase (25.5 to 35.4)—is crucial; it is associated with very high support ratios (working-age adults per child), diminished risk of intra-state conflict, the accumulation of human capital, and higher savings (among “saver” societies).
There are growing indications that states might develop more quickly by sustaining their intermediate phase—which, for very-low-fertility states, has been rather fleeting (for example, China recently departed the intermediate phase after entering 25 years ago). In fact, states that have achieved near-universal secondary education and sustained a lengthy period of economic prosperity and liberal-democratic stability, including the US, have done so during their population’s presence within the so-called age-structural sweet spot: starting in the their intermediate phase and finishing during the first half of the mature phase (the mature phase ranges from 35.5 to 45.4 years).

The forthcoming essays in this blog are focused “beyond the sweet spot.” It is concerned with the challenges and possible outcomes of “advanced aging”—a condition never before encountered—that will evolve in the so-called post-mature phase (median age >45.5 years) of the age structural transition. Countries approaching the end of the mature phase, most in Europe and East Asia, are accumulating large proportions of seniors, most of whom are moving out of the workforce, drawing on pensions, drawing down personal savings and other accumulated assets, and accepting transfers from their children, other relatives, and other public and non-profit sources. As they age, seniors face an increasing risk of morbidity due to chronic illness and declining physical mobility, as well as an increasing risk of poverty.

While improvements in healthcare and nutrition promise to compress the late-in-life period of high morbidity and permit the extension of workforce participation, the projected declines in the number of working-age adults per retiree (the old-age support ratio) in European and East Asian states over the coming two decades is unprecedented. These projections suggest that those states heading for a post-mature future need to deftly manipulate a full range of social and fiscal policy levers in order to mediate, and adapt to, the cost burdens that are poised to descend upon their pension and healthcare systems. Simultaneously, most of these states will likely wrestle with the challenging and politically delicate task of encouraging the reestablishment of near-replacement-level TFR.

The four age-structural phases experienced by Japan (1935, 1970, 1990, 2025 (projected).

As of 2012, only Japan and German have attained the 45-year median-age mark—and just within the past year or two. Significantly, both countries face “negative momentum”; in other words, because of several decades of annual TFRs below 1.5 children per woman and steadily increasing life expectancies, these and other very-low-fertility states are projected to continue to age for the foreseeable future—until old-age mortality dissipates their populations’ currently broad bulges of seniors and middle-agers, and fertility or migration significantly enlarges their childhood and young adult cohorts. In other words, advanced aging is not a momentary inconvenience.

By 2030, advanced aging will have spread widely through Europe (see figure 2: world maps, 2015 and 2030). Current projections by demographers at the US Census Bureau’s International Program Center (International Data Base, June 2011) suggest that the populations of 29 states (each over 1 million residents) will experience a median age over 45.0 years by 2030. Of these, the Census Bureau indicates that 26 will be located in Europe and 3 in East Asia (Japan, Taiwan and South Korea). Despite China’s rapid pace of aging, US Census Bureau projections place its 2030 median age at 43 years, very similar to the UN Population Division’s medium fertility-variant projection for the PRC. The UN Population Division, using a somewhat different set of projection assumptions to produce its medium fertility variant, projects that by 2030 this post-mature group of countries (median age >45.0 years) will consist of 19 states: 14 European, 4 East Asian (including Singapore), and Cuba.

Richard Cincotta is Demographer-in-residence at the Stimson Center in Washington, DC, and a consultant on political demography for the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program. From 2006-09, he served as a long-range analyst for the National Intelligence Council.