Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Genes, genealogies and the evolution of demographic change and social inequality

Project description

Big Data for investigating demographic processes

Demographic change and inequality mark modern society, making indispensable the understanding of demographic processes and the planning of effective policies essential. As demographic processes evolve slowly across generations, the combination of historical with current data can help in understanding the process of population evolution. The EU-funded GENPOP project will investigate long-term demographic processes in family networks from 1800 until today by using existing data on internet-based genealogies. It will use innovative Big Data and micro-census data to examine fertility and mortality in family networks and diversity between and within families across generations, to understand the impact migration had on the different generations and to delineate the long-term models of assortative mating.


This is the first comprehensive study that combines historical and contemporaneous data to understand how population processes evolve via three interrelated channels: (1) multigenerational transmission, (2) assortative mating and (3) migration. Existing research focuses on recent factors to explain contemporaneous population trends, missing the long-view of demographic changes. As population processes (fertility and mortality) evolve slowly across generations, we urgently need to adopt a long-term perspective to comprehend demographic phenomena and design effective policies. I address this need by using newly available data on internet-based genealogies, micro-census data and genetics, to investigate long-term population processes in family networks. Building on my previous research on demography and genetics, I first develop a new theoretical model of transmission of differential fertility and mortality in family networks. Second, I examine diversity between and within families and its persistence across generations. Third, I use innovative Big Data from genealogy social networks and micro-census data to understand the long-term effect of migration on multiple generations. Fourth, I describe the long-term patterns of assortative mating combining data from genetics and genealogy. This project will infuse new data linkages and produce methodological development in the use of Big Data in demography and beyond. The project will focus on the historical period from approximately 1800 until now in Europe and United States, a period of dramatic demographic and epidemiological changes that radically transformed our societies. This transdisciplinary project will overturn established links and deliver major breakthroughs in our understanding of demographic change. This project is not only ground breaking by setting a new research agenda, but due to the inclusion of genealogy data and their linkage with micro-census data, will yield major innovations in social sciences.



Net EU contribution
€ 1 985 705,98
Via zamboni 33
40126 Bologna

See on map

Nord-Est Emilia-Romagna Bologna
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (2)