Demographics are the statistical characteristics of a population of people. The information is considered vital toward the development of a well-functioning society; it drives society’s direction. Governments decide public policy based on the specific make-up of their country’s population. Businesses develop and sell products based on the unique set of people whom they have deemed customers. Various characteristics can be counted and measured, such as gender or income level, but one of the most important is age demographics.
Many countries of the world conduct a periodic census of their citizenry, not only simply counting them, but also requiring them to identify critical traits such as education, wealth, health, race, and age. This provides a snapshot of national character, but more importantly, when compared to previous census data, it provides analysis of demographic changes and trends. For example, the United States census revealed an increase in new births for the decade immediately following World War II. With age demographics, the government knows when this so-called “baby boomer generation” will all retire, and can therefore take measures in advance to ensure that the expected rise in pension and health care costs are adequately addressed.
Another important concept in demographics study, very much related to age demographics, is generational cohorts. The assumption is that a group of people within a population, often because of proximate age, share in the same set of cultural experiences and values. This is especially true if significant events, such as war or a populist uprising against an irresponsible government, occurs. Media, businesses, and academic sociologists may give such groups a moniker, such as “Generation X” for Americans who came of age in the decade of the 1990s.
Perhaps no segment of society critically utilizes demographics more than commercial businesses. Almost nothing is produced without accounting for the product’s target demographic, and having a strategy of marketing the product to this group specifically. Though a television station broadcasts to everyone, in fact, the company programs and sells advertising based on a narrowly defined demographic of gender, race, and age. Companies have a variety of means to determining this, from product registration and surveys to test trials.
Marketing demographics are often distilled into a profile. Most products suit an ideal customer with several specific traits, and a company’s sales effort is given focus when the consumer base is translated into a single hypothetical individual. For example, an “age defying” cosmetic cream that reduces skin wrinkles might have the demographic profile of a married female, of light skin color and age 30-40, with children, a college education, median family income, and minivan for transportation. Although there is ample debate, the age demographics said to be most coveted by businesses is 18 to 34 year olds.