• Melinda Mills

Wolfgang Lutz on the power of multi-dimensional demography & sustainable wellbeing

On June 1st, LCDS welcomed Professor Wolfgang Lutz, Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography, Austria on 'the power of multi-dimensional demography and sustainable wellbeing'.

As Lutz describes: "The tools of multi-dimensional demography stratify human populations by relevant characteristics beyond the conventional age and sex. Here I will address the reconstruction and projection of populations around the world by level of educational attainment and labor force participation in addition to sex an age-cohorts.

These models can show how societies and economies change as a combination of transitions over the life course (such as moving to a higher level of education) and cohort replacement (demographic metabolism) with younger generations with different characteristics – typically high educational attainment – step by step replacing older cohorts in a predictable way.

These new data by age, sex and education for all countries of the world from 1950 to 2100 (based on alternative scenarios) allow for new assessments of the multiple benefits of education for sustainable development.

In a second part I will report on recent research trying to define a well-being indicator that is universally acceptable and can serve as sustainability criterion in the sense that it should not decline over time for any sub-population even if feed-back from environmental and other changes is factored in.

The proposed indicator is called “Years of Good Life” (YoGL) and gives the years a person is expected to be alive (based on life table methods) and above minimum levels in both the subjective indicator of life satisfaction as well as the objective indicators of being out of absolute poverty and being above minimum levels in physical and cognitive health.

It will be discussed how this indicator compares to others in terms of meeting a set of criteria. Empirical examples will be given, including for South Africa."


Wolfgang Lutz is the Founding Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, a cooperation between the University of Vienna (where he is Professor at the Department of Demography), IIASA (where he was Director of the World Population Program and now serves as Senior Advisor), and the Austrian Academy of Sciences (where he is Director of the Vienna Institute of Demography). He holds a PhD in Demography from the University of Pennsylvania, USA. Lutz has widely published on international population trends with a special focus on population forecasting, population-development-environment interactions, and introducing education as a standard demographic dimension in addition to age and sex. He has published over 280 scientific articles, including 24 in Science, Nature and PNAS. He also wrote or edited 27 books and special issues. His most recent book is 'Advanced Introduction to Demography' (E. Elgar, 2021). He has won prestigious awards including the Wittgenstein Prize (the highest Austrian science prize), two European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grants, the Mattei Dogan award of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), and the Mindel C. Sheps Award of the Population Association of America (PAA). He is a member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the German National Academy Leopoldina, the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), the Finnish Society for Sciences and Letters, and the Academia Europea. He was appointed by the UN Secretary-General to be one of the 15 members of the Independent Group of Scientists producing the quadrennial Global Sustainable Development Report 2019.

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