380.603.01 | AY 2013-2014 - 2nd Term | 4 Credit(s)
TTh 3:30:00 PM
  • Course Staff


    M.E. Hughes, PhD
    Office: E4648
    Tel: (410) 502-8772
    Office hours by appointment


    Yue Chu
    Office hours by appointment

  • Course Description

    Demographers have developed a unique set of tools for analyzing populations: their characteristics, how and why they are changing, and how they might look in the future. Because public health is concerned with the health of populations, addressing public health problems requires understanding population dynamics. The goal of this course is twofold: to teach students the methods demographers use to analyze populations and to prepare them to apply these methods in the context of specific public health problems.

    The course will introduce the concept of a population, sources of population data, and the analysis of population composition, distribution, and growth. Students will learn three demographic methods with wide application: standardization and decomposition of rates, life tables, and population projection. The course also will cover the tools used to study the fundamental population processes of fertility, mortality, and migration. Material presented in class sessions will teach students the analytic purpose of each method (i.e., the types of questions the method is designed to answer), the application of the method using appropriate data, and the interpretation of results. In-class exercises and assignments will allow students to practice these skills and evaluate their abilities to do so.  

    To emphasize the use of these methods in public health, lectures will use examples drawn from public health, the course will feature several in-depth public health case studies, and students will share their ideas about public health problems to which the methods may be applied. In the final week of the course, students will work in groups to develop strategies for addressing population issues related to public health research or practice.

  • Course Learning Objectives

    Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

    • Identify and estimate populations at risk
    • Locate appropriate sources of demographic data and describe their limitations
    • Analyze population growth, components of growth, composition, and distribution
    • Calculate and interpret measures of mortality, fertility and migration
    • Utilize standardization to compare populations across time and space
    • Construct and interpret single-decrement life tables.
    • Project a population’s size and age-sex composition using the cohort-component method
    • Apply appropriate demographic methods to address specific public health problems
  • Course Format

    Class Sessions

    Sessions will include lectures, in-class exercises, and discussion. Topics and activities for each session are shown on the course schedule, along with materials to be reviewed prior to class (e.g., readings, recorded lectures, web sites).

    • Lectures will cover the purpose, implementation, and interpretation of each method. They also will provide substantive context for the method and illustrations of its use. Questions are welcomed and encouraged during lectures, with the understanding that time constraints might cause some questions to be deferred until after class.
    • The materials assigned for a topic will supplement the lectures by, for example, covering concepts in more detail or providing an example. Additional resources will be suggested for each topic; some of these will be used in class and others are references for students’ current or future work.
    • Four short recorded lectures by guest faculty will be used during the term. Two will present foundational material (Data Sources and Standardization and Decomposition), permitting class time to be used for more in-depth coverage, student questions, and discussion. The remaining two recordings will present detailed applications (Life Tables and Population Projection).
    • In-class exercises are intended to allow students to learn methods through hands-on experience and immediate discussion of the results.  However, one of the five “in class” exercises is a quiz that will actually be taken outside of class so that students may take up to an hour to complete it.


    Students will complete five assignments outside of class. These assignments will involve the application of a method to data that will be provided. These assignments are intended to provide practice in using the more elaborate methods and interpreting the results.  The date the assignments become available and their due dates are listed on the class schedule.

  • Course Materials

    The course will rely upon one required text (available at online vendors - you will not need the data CD).

    Rowland, D.T. 2003. Demographic Methods and Concepts. New York: Oxford University Press

    The following text is recommended for more detailed discussion of the methods covered in the course.  Population, Family and Reproductive Health students who will be continuing in the demographic methods sequence are encouraged to purchase it.

    Preston, S.H., P. Heuveline, and M. Guillot. 2001. Demography: Measuring and Modeling Population Processes. Oxford UK: Blackwell Publishing.

    All other course materials will be available on the School of Public Health CoursePlus website. General course documents (e.g., syllabus, schedule, assignments) will be posted in the Online Library under General. Materials related to a specific course session (slides, readings, web links, exercises) will be posted to the Online Library in a folder for that session. Hard copies of lecture slides will not be distributed, but they will be available on the course web site by class time.  Other materials specific to a session (except for assignments) will be posted to the course web site at least a week in advance. On the page for each class session, there are links to the relevant readings and any supplemental materials.

  • Assignment Descriptions and Guidelines

    The percentage that each requirement will contribute to students’ final grades is shown in parentheses.

    In-Class Exercises and Life Tables Quiz (6.5% each, total 32.5%)

    Students will carry out these short exercises in class and submit their answers to the Drop Box on the course web site. The class as a whole will interpret and discuss the results. Doing the exercises will require access to a laptop with an internet connection; students who are unable to bring a laptop to class should speak to the instructor. Students may work alone or in pairs on these exercises.

    Students who miss class will not receive credit for the in-class exercise unless they have previously notified the instructor that they will be absent or have an emergency.

    The Exercise 4, on Life Tables will be taken outside of class using the Quiz mechanism on the web site.. The quiz must be completed in one sitting (i.e., students may not close the quiz and return to it). Students will have up to ninety minutes to complete the quiz once they have begun it and will receive warning messages 15, 10 and 5 minutes before the time is up. The quiz questions will be fill-in-the-blank. This exercise will consist of 10 fill-in-the-blank questions.  It is open book - you may consult course materials to help answer the questions. 

    The in class exercises and quiz will reinforce and assess students’ understanding of the material. For this reason, they will be scored—the instructor wants to know how students are doing and wants students to be able to see how they are progressing. The scores, however, will not be translated into grades. All students who complete the exercise by the due date/time will receive full credit.

    Assignments (1-4 13% each, 5 15.5% total 67.5%)

    The following rules apply to the assignments:

    • The assignments must be completed individually—no group work is allowed.
    • Assignments must be submitted to the Drop Box on the course web site no later than the due date indicated on the course schedule. The Drop Box will accept assignments after the due date; however they will be flagged as late. 
    • Extensions on assignment due dates will be granted only in extreme circumstances and must be approved by the Instructor prior to the assignment’s due date/time. Assignments submitted late without prior approval will be downgraded 10% for each day that they are late (a day late is defined as any time within the 24 hours after the assignment is due).

    Assignment format:

    • Assignments must be submitted in PDF format.  The Drop Box will not accept files in other formats.
    • Do not submit multiple files. 
    • Students should be sure to check their converted files before submitting to make sure that everything is there. Credit cannot be given for work that is not submitted, even if it is because of a technical error.

    Additional guidelines for assignments:

    • All assignments include both calculation and interpretation of results. Students should read the assignment carefully and answer all questions.
    • Students must show their work—writing out the formula used for the calculation as well as a sample calculation that illustrates how the numbers were produced.
    • Students should always double-check assignments for errors before submission. Small errors can cost a lot of points.
  • Course Schedule

    Please see the course Session for a full list of dates and items for this course.

  • Modes of Communication

    Course staff will use email to communicate with students both individually and collectively. The first few minutes of every class session will be used to address questions about course content. Students also may post questions about content to the appropriate section of the web site Discussion Forum. Students may also request a meeting with the instructor or TA to address content-related questions.  Questions about course logistics or assignments should always be posted to the Discussion Forum. It will be monitored and questions will be answered within 24 hours. Students should always check the Discussion Forum before posting a question to see if their question has already been asked and answered. Questions about course policy (absences, late assignments, grading) should be directed to the instructor, not the Discussion forum or TA.

  • Late Assignments

    The Drop Box will accept assignments after the due date; however they will be flagged as late. Assignments will be docked seven points for each day that they are late (a day late is defined as any time within the 24 hours after the assignment is due). 

  • Use of Electronic Devices During Class

    Use of cell phones is not permitted in class and laptops and iThings may be used to take notes and for in-class exercises but for no other purpose.

  • Academic Ethics Code

    Students enrolled in the Bloomberg School of Public Health of The Johns Hopkins University assume an obligation to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the University's mission as an institution of higher education. A student is obligated to refrain from acts which he or she knows, or under the circumstances has reason to know, impair the academic integrity of the University. Violations of academic integrity include, but are not limited to: cheating; plagiarism; knowingly furnishing false information to any agent of the University for inclusion in the academic record; violation of the rights and welfare of animal or human subjects in research; and misconduct as a member of either School or University committees or recognized groups or organizations.

  • Intended Audience

    Masters and Doctoral students.

  • Prerequisites


  • Contact Information
    M. E. Hughes
  • Disability Support Services
    If you are a student with a documented disability who requires an academic accommodation, please contact the Office of Student Life Services at 410-955-3034 or via email at