Has demography witnessed a data revolution? Promises and pitfalls of a changing data ecosystem

Ridhi Kashyap
2021 Population Studies  
Over the past 25 years, technological improvements that have made the collection, transmission, storage, and analysis of data significantly easier and more cost efficient have ushered in what has been described as the 'big data' era or the 'data revolution'. In the social sciences context, the data revolution has often been characterized in terms of increased volume and variety of data, and much excitement has focused on the growing opportunity to repurpose data that are the by-products of the
more » ... igitalization of social life for research. However, many features of the data revolution are not new for demographers, who have long used large-scale population data and been accustomed to repurposing imperfect data not originally collected for research. Nevertheless, I argue that demography, too, has been affected by the data revolution, and the data ecosystem for demographic research has been significantly enriched. These developments have occurred across two dimensions. The first involves the augmented granularity, variety, and opportunities for linkage that have bolstered the capabilities of 'old' big population data sources, such as censuses, administrative data, and surveys. The second involves the growing interest in and use of 'new' big data sources, such as 'digital traces' generated through internet and mobile phone use, and related to this, the emergence of 'digital demography'. These developments have enabled new opportunities and offer much promise moving forward, but they also raise important ethical, technical, and conceptual challenges for the field.
doi:10.1080/00324728.2021.1969031 pmid:34902280 fatcat:4v46gpyh6fdcze6qwqzljoxbf4