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Demographics Oddities Due To Wwi

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#1 DB



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Posted 26 September 2019 - 0649 AM

Not unexpected, but I felt it is interesting nonetheless.

Summary - when all the men are off getting shot at, the home front birthrate drops. This dip has now reached the 100+ cohort.

Additional tidbit - the gap in numbers between men and women is declining, as evidenced by the 90 years cohort.

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#2 Brian Kennedy

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Posted 16 October 2019 - 1830 PM

What's crazy to me is that the bloodletting of WW2 didn't seem to affect things very much with regards to the status of even the ex-Axis powers nowadays. Germany and Japan are still economic powerhouses, Italy is still, well, Italy, etc. You'd think there would be some long-lasting impact for their most hardcore menfolk (tongue in cheek) being slaughtered in their millions but it didn't really seem to happen. I don't know enough to comment about the effects in USSR/China.

Edited by Brian Kennedy, 16 October 2019 - 1831 PM.

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#3 DougRichards


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Posted 16 October 2019 - 1929 PM

Well French men, on average, are shorter than their British (not by much) and German counterparts.


This has been blamed on Napoleon's use of the tallest men in his Guard units, therefore depopulating France of its tall DNA.




Edited by DougRichards, 16 October 2019 - 1930 PM.

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#4 Ken Estes

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Posted 17 October 2019 - 1353 PM

I tackled that one in 2002, when I worked briefly for a think tank. Don't expect hard and fast rules, though.


Demography  and War


The size of population was the original measure of a society’s military power, since ancient times. The Persian Army of Xerxes exaggerated its number probably to overawe the Greeks it marched against. Qualitative differences such as training, leadership, tactics and technology no doubt influenced the military reputations of societies, but these remained difficult to measure and left considerable uncertainty in calculating the power of a tribe, city state, or nation.


Many elements of demography have interested military experts in modern times. The population factors of number, density, distribution, age, gender, race, religion, education, marriage, profession, and income play a large role in the calculation of effective military force structure and potential today. But  military doctrines and systems of the past have relied upon demographic constructs at least implicitly. The choice of national defense dependent upon mass mobilization of military manpower or the fielding of a trained professional force poses a typical illustration of elementary demographics. Whether a tribal war using all able bodied males or a national levee en masse of a modern nation state is considered, the primary emphasis remains with the number of population. But if a professional military force is determined by policy, many other factors become of interest.


As societies developed sophisticated economies and political organizations, the determination of national power could no longer be limited to the number of population. Factors of general and military technology, political organization, and social cohesion influenced the character of the military force and the number of the population that could be assigned to its functions on a permanent and temporary basis.


The ethnic composition of the population became especially significant in the age of mass armies. If certain segments of the society have questionable cohesion to the state, or if they constitute groups with irredentist aspirations with neighboring countries, they can complicate greatly the organization and mobilization of forces.  An extreme example appeared in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where war planning required the transfer of units mobilized in the Moldavian and Bohemian provinces to the Italian front, and vice versa. The delays imposed by such ethnic sorting of the field army left it in a weak position in case of a no-notice war. The former Soviet Union, with its over 140 recognized ethnic groups, faced clear dilemmas in the effective use of military manpower.


Language barriers posed by ethnic mixtures initially presented few problems for armies before the late industrial eras. A hundred words of command in Russian, German or Hungarian could suffice for drilling the conscript soldiers in the tactics of the day. But as training and skill requirements mounted, a population had to be better educated and conversant to contribute to defense needs.  The German forces used significant numbers of foreign volunteers in World War II, but recruiting standards for the naval and air arms could not be relaxed and few foreigners actually served. In the case of ground forces, hundreds of thousands of foreign troops donned German uniforms, but almost all of them served in basic infantry units, with technical services and most supporting arms, where present, manned by Germans.


The conversion of U.S. forces to an all volunteer establishment came as a political outgrowth of the Vietnam Conflict, but involved crucial demographic calculations. A key changeover for the All Volunteer Force was the increased reliance upon women. The plan forecast a 10% female force, and during 1972-1992, the US services saw a 2.1-11% growth in women. Today, new accessions reportedly include a 20% female component, thanks to the opening of all but close combat military functions to women.


War also causes demographic changes, first from the losses incurred through casualties, but also in population shifts brought by punitive peace terms. The Thirty Years’ War witnessed a considerable depopulation of Central Europe. Expanding national frontiers often brought new settlements of the dominant cultural group. Refugee movements, except out of the immediate battle areas, seldom occurred, and populations of conquered regions simply changed nationality, as was the case with the French province of Alsace over several centuries of European conflict. But the 20th Century saw forced resettlement and refugee movements as a war measure and consequence of peace settlements, in unprecedented numbers.


If war causes demographic shifts, it remains equally intriguing to speculate how demography might create conditions of war. Sociologists and anthropologists consider large communities to be more warlike, although not all of them. A high rate of contact between rival political or ethnic groups has been considered a precursor to war. Raymond Aron considered three demographic factors to be closely associated with war: an excess of men, over population and the biological vitality of the population. Modern demographers point with increasing interest to the relative number of young men [age 15-29] as a prime predictor for a society headed for war. Some experts consider a proportion of 40% or more such youths in the male population as particularly incendiary. Thus, the most peaceful societies are in Europe, except for the Balkans and Scandinavia, where the youth cohort reaches 20%. The Americans have remained fixed at about 30% for years, but a country like Iran already exceeds 40%.


Even without a dedication to a specific doctrine of sociology, statesmen often sensed that demographics was likely a significant contributor to the chance of war. France, in particular, frequently experienced war scares because of her population weakness compared to the post-1870 German Empire. The losses incurred from World War I led directly to the concept of a national defense system which would balance that weakness, in the form of the famous Maginot Line system of frontier defenses of 1928-1940.


See also


Quincy Wright, A Study of War, 2 vols., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965.

Raymond Aron, On War, Garden City: Doubleday, 1959.

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#5 Ariete!



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Posted 09 December 2019 - 1747 PM

What's crazy to me is that the bloodletting of WW2 didn't seem to affect things very much with regards to the status of even the ex-Axis powers nowadays. Germany and Japan are still economic powerhouses, Italy is still, well, Italy, etc.


By 1950s, per capita real GDP in each of the three main Axis powers was above 1939 levels. By 1960 it was 75%  higher than the 1939 level.

Though oveall GDP did benefit from population growth, it was mostly a productivity revolution.

Even the US, which did not have the same 'catch-up' effects (it was one of the richest coutrneis if not the richest, pro-capita) was up 50% vs. 1940, by 1950 and up 77% by 1960.  Thos are price-adjusted, per-capita figures.


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