A fast-timescale approximation is applied to the coalescent process in a single population, which is demographically structured by sex and/or age. This provides a general expression for the probability that a pair of alleles sampled from the population coalesce in the previous time interval. The effective population size is defined as the reciprocal of twice the product of generation time and the coalescence probability. Biologically explicit formulas for effective population size with discrete generations and separate sexes are derived for a variety of different modes of inheritance. The method is also applied to a nuclear gene in a population of partially self-fertilizing hermaphrodites. The effects of population subdivision on a demographically structured population are analyzed, using a matrix of net rates of movement of genes between different local populations. This involves weighting the migration probabilities of individuals of a given age/sex class by the contribution of this class to the leading left eigenvector of the matrix describing the movements of genes between age/sex classes. The effects of sex-specific migration and nonrandom distributions of offspring number on levels of genetic variability and among-population differentiation are described for different modes of inheritance in an island model. Data on DNA sequence variability in human and plant populations are discussed in the light of the results.