Demographic Models for Projecting Population and Migration: Methods for African Historical Analysis

Patrick Manning, Scott Nickleach, Bowen Yi, Brian McGill


This study presents methods for projecting population and migration over time in cases were empirical data are missing or undependable. The methods are useful for cases in which the researcher has details of population size and structure for a limited period of time (most obviously, the end point), with scattered evidence on other times. It enables estimation of population size, including its structure in age, sex, and status, either forward or backward in time. The program keeps track of all the details. The calculated data can be reported or sampled and compared to empirical findings at various times and places to expected values based on other procedures of estimation.


The application of these general methods that is developed here is the projection of African populations backwards in time from 1950, since 1950 is the first date for which consistently strong demographic estimates are available for national-level populations all over the African continent. The models give particular attention to migration through enslavement, which was highly important in Africa from 1650 to 1900. Details include a sensitivity analysis showing relative significance of input variables and techniques for calibrating various dimensions of the projection with each other. These same methods may be applicable to quite different historical situations, as long as the data conform in structure to those considered here.

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