Want to know who lives somewhere and why? Want to know where the best location is for a new business? Want to find out which candidate would be the best to run in a certain area?
You want demographics. And Penn State is stepping up to help.
The university will be offering a graduate degree in applied demographics through its online World Campus.
“Demographics is the science of population,” said professor Alexis Santos, director of the new graduate program.
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That science is becoming more and more in demand.
“Applied demography uses (it) to aid in decision making of governments or businesses,” Santos said.
So if a big box store is looking for the best place to put a new location without hurting sales at its surrounding stores, it will use demographics to make the call. If a school district is trying to decide whether to renovate an existing school or build a new one that could support future growth, it uses demographics to figure out the best use of taxpayer money.
The country is also recovering from another striking use of demographics, the kind of polling done for the presidential election.
“We do data analysis. That’s how you make decisions from polling. You do a small sample and assume it represents whole population. You assign weights to sample, weigh observations and make it representative of whole,” Santos said.
So with more and more public and private entities relying on demographics, Penn State is stepping in to help turn out the people to solve the problems.
The 30-credit master’s program is being run through the World Campus to make the degree available to as many potential students as possible.
“A lot of people want to learn about demography,” Santos said. “But these people are not necessarily mobile. They have jobs, they have kids. They may not be able to quit their job for a year, year and a half. This way they are able to do this without moving, selling their house, stopping their career.”
Penn State has been noted by the National Research Council for its demography work. The World Campus has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report for the quality of its online programs, particularly for its graduate offerings.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn from faculty members of a highly respected program,” said Karen Pollack, assistant vice provost for online programs at Penn State World Campus. “This online degree gives working adults in this field access to a high-quality Penn State education in a way that is convenient for them and their busy lives.”