Home > Over analysis > Problematic Population Mechanics in the ‘Harry Potter’ Franchise

Problematic Population Mechanics in the ‘Harry Potter’ Franchise

In another life I work at a movie theater, one of which that played the last Harry Potter film on the one screen for a month and a half. While that small part of my life is now gone, I can’t but to think of the weird population system for the wizarding world. I particularly noticed this in the Epilogue scene of the film (I could talk about that scene itself…but I’m not) that every wizard family had at least two kids. Upon deeper reflection this was the case for nearly the whole franchise-large wizarding families. On the other hand there seems to be little to no growth in the actual wizard population. This combination of high wizard birth rate and small wizard populations just doesn’t add up to me. With that in mind I decided to take a further look at this perplexity.

What do we know about wizard populations?

The author, J.K. Rowling, left out any clear indications on the numerical size of the wizarding community at any point during the timeline for the franchise. But there’s some things one could summarize based on other information left by J.K. Rowling. The schools for the wizard community are, all but two, located in the Western portion of Europe (the other is speculated to be in Brazil and the other in Salem, Massachusetts). The specific region of these schools suggest that the wizards are primarily located in Western Europe and New England, a center for the first colonizers of North America. When considering global populations, these clusters of wizarding schools and the possible proximity of dense wizard population are incredibly dense and a minority of the international community.

This must be taken in further consideration that both the books and films of the franchise depict wizards as a minority of Western Europe. While there is a handful of wizards, there is hardly the same as any other given ethnic minority. There’s not even a regional association for the community. Most of the assumptions for the population are assumed by the student body of the three wizarding schools; Hogwarts, Durmstrang, and Beauxbatons. These schools geographically translate to Scotland, Norway/Sweden (it’s nor particularly clear on which it is), and France. These locations all suggest the idea that attendees of these schools and the remainder of the wizarding community are centered in these areas.

Beauxbatons. Having boys pretend to be girls for over 700 years.

Based on this it has been established that the wizarding community is primarily centered in the western portion of Europe, as well as a minority in terms of the overall population of the region. Or at least what can be implied by what J.K. Rowling has left her readers.

What can be assumed about wizard birth rates?

Like wizarding populations, J.K. Rowling doesn’t state anything regarding wizard birth and death rates, the crux of understanding wizard population mechanics. As before, I can assume a few things with the details that Rowling has given. Between birth and death rates, the latter is much easier to verify. Considering that wizards are of the same species as muggles, it can also be assumed that they have the same birth and death rate. The death rate for the three countries (United Kingdom, France, and Norway) of wizarding schools is, on average, 9.29 deaths per 1,000 people given in a point of time. The birth rate (births per woman) is, on average, 1.89 for those three countries. Based on this data the wizard population can be assumed to be like the rest of Western Europe. Low death and birth rates; death doesn’t make a large debt in the population, and the birth rate is slightly less than a rate that would allow for constant population (that would be 2.0, or two kids per woman). Thus, like the other parts of Europe, the wizard population can be seen as slightly decreasing. But what about the rates Rowling suggests?

Naturally long life seems to be a part of the magical community. Few mentioned characters die prematurely, with this mostly derived from magical related accidents or incidents. The most notable of these being the two magic wars against Voldemort. But there is little specifics detailing the causalities of the conflict. That is also too recent a event to factor in the overall wizard population. It can be assumed that wizard death is slightly less than that of others in their region, and prolonged due to magical factors. What information Rowling leaves that is promising is the families of the cast and what it could possibly say about wizard birth rates. Of the main cast there is one child from the Potters, Malfoys, and Longbottoms; two for the Blacks; three for the Dumbledores; and seven for the Weasleys (I’ll get to squibs and muggle-borns later). While there is a substantial amount of single child families, the case of the Potters and Longbottoms must also be liked as a possible product of the untimely death/insanity of their parents. Based on these families there is an average of 2.5 kids per couple. This would suggest that there is actually a growing wizarding population. The epilogue (which set off this whole chain) shows Harry and Ginny with 3 kids, Hermione and Ron with 2, and Malfoy with a single child. This creates an average birth rate of 2, a consistent population, but it’s an incredibly small sample to provide any accurate data.

Say contraception!

The main point of this analysis is that it seems that the actual birth rate for wizards is somewhere between 2 and 2.5 children between mother. This is higher than the birth rate for Western Europe in general, suggesting that there is a growth of some kind in the wizard population.

What about squibs and muggle-borns?

When I began thinking of writing this I knew one of the more important points to my argument was squibs and muggle-borns. Both of which also lack proper numerical notation on how prevalent squibs or muggle-borns are (though racist tendencies are strongly felt against the latter throughout the series). Like in the case of looking at wizard birth rates, this information must be gleaned by what J.K. Rowling has left in the works.

I CAN HAZ MAGIC?!?

In the time of the events of the Harry Potter novels and films there’s only two squibs known by the characters. While it must be mentioned that many squibs were treated as inferior to wizards by the community, it still stands as an incredibly marginal sub-population in the wizarding world. On the other hand, muggle-borns seem quite common in Rowling’s created universe. Nearly every character is muggle-born or half-wizard (of descent from a muggle-born), suggesting not only the mass importance of the sub-population in the universe, but that muggle-borns add a considerable amount to the overall wizard population. According to Rowling, muggle-borns are descendants of squibs (after several generations), but as noted with the squibs they seem to be a smaller sub-population than that of muggle-borns. This simply doesn’t add up. It’s more likely that some sort of magic mutation occurs giving way to muggle-borns. Suggesting on top of the wizard birth rate of somewhere between 2.0 and 2.5 children per woman, is the unknown growth of the wizard population through muggle-borns, either of squib descent or magic mutation. Based on this logic the wizarding population should be increasing at a fairly steady rate, dependent upon the squib sub-population, in the decrease of wizards and that of muggle-borns generations later, and the rate of magic mutation.

Why is this important?

With all the potential population mechanics explained there is still the point of why this is an issue in the first place. What can be assumed from Rowling’s description of potential population structure of wizards seems to directly contradict her depictions of the wizarding community. As mentioned already the wizarding community appears as a minority in Western Europe. However, as already deduced the wizard population is most likely increasing due to a birth rate of a consistent (at the lower end) or slightly growing (on the higher end), plus an unspecified growth due to muggle-borns. But Rowling prefers to depict the community as small especially compared to their muggle neighbors. Considering that wizard communities are quite ancient, which would most likely would’ve had a greater birth rate then, the wizard population should be substantially larger than what is depicted. Unless there are some events not described by Rowling that constrict wizard populations, the wizarding world created by Rowling is far insignificant compared to what it should be. Of course, this decision to do otherwise is most likely derived for creative interest and also considering that it’s a magical community, the rules of reality can often be ignored. But the point of populations mechanics is one that was directly ignored for creative purposes, especially since wizards are no different than humans biologically.

All the youth of Northwest Europe...? Apparently.

This whole post is a joke (except for birth rate stats of Europe), none of this information should be taken seriously.

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