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Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research

Forecasting population with POPGROUP

Dates: 22 June 2017 
Instructor: Ludi Simpson
Level: Introductory 
Fee: £195 (£140 for those from educational, government and charitable institutions). 

We offer five free places to research staff and students within the Faculty of Humanities at The University of Manchester and the North West Doctoral Training Centre. Postgraduate students requesting a free place will be required to provide a letter of support from their supervisor.


The course reviews and implements the standard methods of forecasting population with age and sex detail, through use of the POPGROUP software. The course uses Data Modules to explore UK government forecasts and participants will make their own alternative scenarios. 

The focus is on sub-national forecasts for districts of England, but the principles transfer directly to national forecasts, to sub-national forecasts of smaller areas, and to social or ethnic groups, each of which are discussed. The aim is to use official data to understand the demographic characteristics of the local district, how they are likely to affect future population change, the range of possible futures, and how these can be used to help plan public services.

The emphasis is on hands-on learning through practical sessions that take the participants through the preparation of inputs, running forecasts, analysing results, and adjusting forecasts to implement a range of scenarios or assumptions.

The morning session will focus on understanding the capacity of the software through an extended hands-on exercise using data for districts in England chosen by the participant. These forecasts will be developed in the afternoon following guidance or exploring the participant’s own priorities.

Participants on this course will be expected to be conversant with handling multiple Excel files. Preparation before the course will be distributed to help participants become familiar with demographic concepts and POPGROUP.

This course is designed for current and potential users of demographic data who wish to understand or use POPGROUP, the standard software for population analysis and planning in the UK. Participants wishing to get skilled up in this software might be from local or national government, health service or business planning backgrounds or be postgraduate or established academics.


  • Review the standard methods of forecasting population used by national statistical agencies and in local government.
  • Introduce participants to the ways in which POPGROUP stores data for each of the components of a forecast in structured Excel spreadsheets: the base population, births, deaths, and up to four flows of migration.
  • Give participants experience of all stages of population forecasting with POPGROUP software: introducing past data for each component; making assumptions about future trends in fertility, mortality and migration; running a forecast; extracting data from a forecast; adjusting assumptions to reflect new scenarios.
  • Consider the impact of an assumption about one of the components of a forecast (births, deaths, migration) on the future development of the other components. In practicals, implement several different scenarios and measure the impact of each.
  • Use POPGROUP software's capability to store past population estimates as well as to forecast future population, by single year of age and sex for up to 40 areas.
  • Consider how to develop alternative scenarios which may each be plausible, and to judge their plausibility from past experience.


Preparatory material will be sent to users before the course, to familiarise themselves with the structure and content of POPGROUP files.

Experience of using multiple Microsoft Excel files is essential.

Recommended Reading

Integrated local demographic forecasts constrained by the supply of housing or jobs: practice in the UK - Ludi Simpson, CMIST Working Paper 2016-01

Derived Forecasts Manual

About the instructor