Scope of Demography

8788 Words Aug 10th, 2010 36 Pages
Demography, Scope, Perspectives and Theory
J C Caldwell
1 November 2000
Demography: Scope, Perspectives and Theory
John C. Caldwell
Health Transition Centre
National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health
Australian National University
Canberra
The term “demography” has been widely used in English-speaking countries only from the mid -twentieth century. Earlier, “population studies” or, revealingly,
“population problems” had been the common usage. There is still an inclination to restrict “demography” to the analytical methods used to analyze population data while employing “population studies” or “population science” for wider subject matter covering, in addition, the causes and consequences of demographic change.
Interest in the
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Such policy involvement did not become controversial until the
3
twentieth century when controversy arose, first over focusses on migrants and differential fertility in response to the eugenic s movement, and later over research appearing to support the call for a curb on Third World fertility (cf.
Hodgson 1983; Szreter 1993).
6. Demographers are suspicious of the study of individuals and small groups, feeling that such persons are significant only when it can be shown what fraction of a larger population they constitute and even then that the fraction is of a considerable size.
7. Demographers look for regularities in populations or subpopulations and for contrasts between subpopulations: Graunt showed urban-rural differentials in mortality, as well as male-female differentials in both numbers born and subsequent mortality.
8. From the beginning there has also been an interest in causation (Graunt examined the causes of death), but there has, at the same time, been a suspicion that measures of causes were more likely to be in error than measures of population or death.
9. Until the nineteenth century in France and the twentieth century elsewhere mortality and population growth dominated demographers’ interests; fertility became of interest only when birth rates began to decline and the major concern only during the 1960s -1980s, when interest focussed on
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