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Demographic Research in the Digital Age

Denver, United States, 25 April 2018 


The IUSSP Scientific Panel on Big Data and Population Processes organized a Research Workshop on Demographic Research in the Digital Age at the 2018 annual meeting of the Population Association of America. The half-day workshop, which was held in Denver, CO on April 25th, was designed to favor communication and exchange between researchers who study the implications of digital technologies for demographic behavior as well as the applications of new data from digital sources to understand population processes.


In the first part of the workshop, Dennis Feehan gave a keynote talk titled "Estimating internet adoption around the world using a sample of Facebook users." The presentation described how researchers can use respondents to an online survey to try to estimate features of the entire population (not just people who are online). The idea is to ask respondents to report about other people they are connected to through various personal networks. To illustrate the methods, Dennis presented results by estimating rates of internet adoption from a survey of Facebook users in five countries around the world.



Dennis then led a tutorial on how to analyze data collected with network reporting methods, using the R package 'networkreporting'. Workshop participants downloaded data from a recent survey that was conducted in Rwanda and used their laptops to work through an RStudio notebook. Participants learned about the structure of network reporting data, the steps needed to produce exploratory figures, to calculate size estimates, to produce uncertainty intervals, and to conduct a simple sensitivity analysis.


The second part of the workshop focused on the breadth of the field of digital demography, with short talks from contributed papers that leveraged a number of sources, including Facebook data for advertisers, Twitter data, online dating websites and citizen science approaches, to study demographic processes. For more information, see the program and the presentation slides.


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Funding: Financial support was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to support innovative demographic methodologies and knowledge sharing for sustainable development.