Thursday, 31 March 2016

Population through time

Every day I'll post a graph from the book with some commentary written specially for this blog. I won't repeat everything in the book, and I'll probably end up saying some stuff that isn't in it, particularly if new data has been released.

The National Records of Scotland provides data on Scotland's population for every year back to 1855. This graph shows the population (blue line) and its growth rate (red bars).

The eye is drawn to the dent in the line. This is the second world war. At the start of the war many people left Scotland, presumably with the armed forces. By 1944 the population had fallen by 350,000, but the next year the war was over and the exodus reversed.

There must have been many happy reunions amongst family and friends at that time, especially for young couples who wasted no time in adding to the population. By 1947 the population rose through 5 million to exceed pre-war levels.

Notice the rapid population growth throughout the 19th century. This is the last 50 years of the industrial revolution's boom, in which people moved into towns and cities. The annual growth rates in that period were between 0.5% and 1.0%. These may seem small, but a 1% annual growth rate sustained for 70 years will result in the population doubling (1.01 raised to the power 70).

The growth slowed in the early 20th century. If you look closely at the graph, you might be able to see that growth stopped before the first world war, and the population dropped in 1912 and 1913 and then grew through the war. I'm not sure how to explain this (if you know, please comment), but it seems that the pre-war decrease was because the birth rate fell in 1912 and 1913.

The population hardly changed in the latter half of the 20th century, and from 1975 until 1990 the population declined. It then remained stuck at about 5.1 million until 2004 when it began growing rapidly.  From 2007 to 2011, the annual growth was 0.6% a sustained rate not seen since the industrial revolution. Whereas the 19th century population rise was due to natural increase (births exceeding deaths), this one was due to immigration, with many people coming to Scotland from the 10 states that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007.

Averaged over 2004-2014, Scotland's population growth rate was 0.5%. This compares to 0.7% for England, 0.4% for Wales and 0.7% for Northern Ireland.

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