Demographic Analysis


Demography is the study of the characteristics of human populations, such as size, growth, density, and distribution. Demographic analysis provides insights into the links between these characteristics and the cultural, economic, geographic, and other social attributes present in a given area.

General Information

Understanding the population dynamics around a resource can be a valuable tool for managers. Demographic analysis can highlight trends in the size and density of communities adjacent to a protected area, as well as factors attracting or discouraging individuals from residing in these areas. By linking population data and use patterns, demographic analysis can help managers target the sources of practices that are detrimental to the health of marine ecosystems. This type of information can be incorporated into a geographic information system (GIS) to display demographic patterns spatially, linking ecological and human characteristics within a landscape. Demographic analysis can also be used to establish the percentage of the total population involved in a particular resource use activity, such as fishing or tourism. By delineating this information by age, sex, or education level, managers can develop targeted outreach and training activities for local communities.


  • Provides statistically sound data on human populations

  • Has little bias

  • Can be used to orient other types of social science analysis (e.g., social assessments, use patterns, and economic studies)


  • Population data is not collected specifically for MPAs

  • Demographic analysis does not capture individual or community perceptions

  • Can require use of sophisticated statistical techniques

Expertise Needed

Technical assistance from a skilled demographer is essential for interpreting population data, conducting statistical analyses, and establishing relationships between different demographic trends. However, more informal use of demographic data by managers themselves may help orient planning, outreach, and education activities around a resource.

Resources: Websites