Barcelona Field Studies Centre

GCSE Population Glossary

Age-Sex Pyramid (Population Pyramid): a series of horizontal bars that illustrate the structure of a population. The horizontal bars represent different age categories, which are placed on either side of a central vertical axis. Males are to the left of the axis, females to the right.

Ageing Population: In the population structure of many MEDCs there is often a high proportion of elderly people who have survived due to advances in nutrition and medical care. This creates problems since these people do not work and have to be provided with pensions, medical care, social support, sheltered housing etc. from the taxes paid by a proportionally smaller number of workers. In addition, an increasing number of young people are employed as care workers for the elderly. This removes them from more productive jobs within the economy and harms a country's competitiveness.

Ageing Population Structure: a population pyramid with a narrower shape, broad at the top, found in MEDCs. This reflects their low birth rates and the greater proportion of elderly people.

Birth Rate: The number of live births per 1000 people per year.

Bulge of Young Male Migrants: on a population pyramid; young males move to urban areas due to push-pull factors.

Census: a counting of people by the government every ten years to gather data for planning of schools, hospitals, etc. This is unreliable for a number of reasons.

Child Dependency ratio: the number of children in relation to the number of working (economically active) population, usually expressed as a ratio.

Concentrated Population Distribution: where people are grouped densely in an urbanised area (see Port, Bridging-Point, Route Centre, Wet Point Site, Market Town, Mining Town, Resort).

Contraception: using birth control to stop pregnancy.

Counter-urbanisation movement of people in MEDCs away from urban areas to live in smaller towns and villages (see de-urbanisation and urban-rural shift).

Death rate: the number of deaths per 1000 people per year.

Demographic transition: the change from high birth rates and death rates to low birth rates and death rates.

Demographic Transition Model: diagram which shows the relationship between birth and death rates and how changes in these affect the total population.

Dependency ratio: the ratio between those of working age and those of non-working age. This is calculated as:

% pop aged 0 -14 + % pop aged 65+
% of population aged 15-65
x 100


Dependent Population: those who rely on the working population for support e.g. the young and elderly.

Depopulation: the decline or reduction of population in an area.

De-urbanisation: the process in MEDCs by which an increasingly smaller percentage of a country’s population lives in towns and cities, brought about by urban-rural migration. (See Counter-Urbanisation and Urban-Rural Shift).

Dispersed Population Distribution: the opposite of a concentrated distribution; the population may be spread evenly over a fertile farming area, rather than concentrated in an urban centre. Dispersed population distributions tend to be of low density.

Distribution (of a population): where people are found and where they are not found.

Economic Migrant: person leaving her/his native country to seek better economic opportunities (jobs) and so settle temporarily in another country.

Emigrant: someone who leaves an area to live elsewhere.

Ethnic Group: the group of people a person belongs to categorised by race, nationality, language, religion or culture.

Family Planning: using contraception to control the size of your family.

Family Ties: the lack of family ties (no wife or children) encourages young males to migrate from LEDCs to MEDCs or from rural to urban areas to seek a better life. The young (20-35) are also best-suited physically to heavy unskilled/semi-skilled work. See Guest-Worker.

Fertile Age Group: the child-bearing years of women, normally 18-45 years of age.

Ghetto: an urban district containing a high proportion of one particular ethnic group. The term ghetto comes from the district of Geto in medieval Venice which was reserved for Jews.

Gross National Product (GNP) per capita: the total value of goods produced and services provided by a country in a year, divided by the total number of people living in that country.

Guest-Worker Migration: people leaving their country to work in another land but not to settle: the term is associated with unskilled/semi -skilled labour.

Human Development Index: a social welfare index, adopted by the United Nations as a measure of development, based upon life expectancy (health), adult literacy (education), and real GNP per capita (economic).

Immigrant: someone who moves into an area from elsewhere.

Infant Mortality: the number of babies dying before their first birthday per 1000 live births.

Life Expectancy: the average number of years a person born in a particular country might be expected to live.

Literacy Rate: the proportion of the total population able to read and write.

Malnutrition: ill-health caused by a diet deficiency, either in amount (quantity) or balance (quality).

Migrant: someone who moves from one place to another to live.

Migration: movement of people.

Model: a theoretical representation of the real world in which detail and scale are simplified in order to help explain reality.

Natural Increase or Decrease: the difference between the birth rate and the death rate. Additional effects of migration are not included.

Natural Population Change: the difference in number between those who are born and those who die in a year. Additional effects of migration are not included.

Net Migration: the difference between the number of emigrants and the number of immigrants.

New Commonwealth: the more recent members of Britain’s Commonwealth (ex-colonies, now independent), including countries such as India and Pakistan and the West Indian islands.

Overpopulation: where there are too many people and not enough resources to support a satisfactory quality of life.

Population Change: Births - Deaths + In-Migration - Out-Migration = Population Change.

Population Density: number of people per square kilometre.

Population Pyramid: a graph which shows the age and sex structure of a place.

Push-Pull Factors: push factors encourage or force people to leave a particular place; pull factors are the economic and social attractions (real and imagined) offered by the location to which people move (i.e. the things which attract someone to migrate to a place).

Quality of Life: things (e.g. housing) that affect your standard of living.

Quality of Life Index: a single number or score used to place different countries in rank order based on their quality of life. Various indicators are included, e.g. GNP per person, calorie intake, life expectancy, access to health care, number of doctors per 100,000 etc.

Racial Prejudice: thinking unpleasant things about people because of the colour of their skin and/or their ethnic group without knowing them.

Racism: unfair, ridiculing or threatening behaviour towards someone because oi their particular racial group.

Refugees: people forced to move from where they live to another area.

Repatriation: a government policy of returning immigrants to their country of origin.

Rural Depopulation: people leaving the countryside usually to live in towns (ie. rural-urban migration).

Rural Population Structure: young males move to urban areas due to push-pull factors. This creates a characteristic indentation in the 20-35 age group population structure.

Segregation: where immigrant groups such as Turks in Germany become increasingly isolated in inner city areas, of poor housing (see ghetto).

Sparsely Populated: an area that has few people living in it.

Sterilisation: a method of contraception: in men an operation prevents sperm from being released, and in women an operation stops the production of eggs.

Structure (of a population): the relative percentages of people of different age groups, usually shown on a population pyramid.

Urban-Rural Shift: the movement of people out of towns in MEDCs to seek a better quality of life living in the countryside. Some work from home using telecommunications technology; most travel into the city each day as commuters, contributing to the rush hour.

Urbanisation: the growth of towns and cities leading to an increasing proportion of a country’s population living there. It as a gradual process common in LEDCs where 1 million people move from the countryside to the cities every three days.

Urban Population Structure: young males move to urban areas due to push-pull factors. This creates a characteristic population pyramid bulge in the 20-35 age range.

Voluntary Migration: where people move to another area through choice.

Working Population: people in employment who have to support the dependent population.

Youthful Population: in the population structure of LEDCs, there is often a higher proportion of young people due to high birth rates and a reduction in infant mortality due to better nutrition, education and medical care. This may create problems since the children need feeding, housing, education and eventually a job. Medical care and education has to be paid for by taxing a proportionally small number of workers.

Youthful Population Structure: seen as a wide base on population pyramids that reflect high birth rates in LEDCs.