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Handbook of Population.

Poston, Dudley and Michael Micklin, Editors, Handbook of Population. New York: Springer, 2005, 918 pp.

In bringing this impressive handbook together, Dudley Poston and Michael Micklin have sought to update The Study of Population, edited by Hauser and Duncan (1959). There are sections on population structure, population processes, population and the social sciences and applied demography. The number of chapters is similar, as is the number of pages: 918 in 2005 compared to 864 pages in 1959. The book and the discipline gain from this systematic presentation. We note both how advanced the discipline was a half century ago, and the remarkable change of the past fifty years. In 1959, the list of disciplines with separate chapters included ecology, human ecology, geography, physical anthropology, genetics, economics and sociology. In 2005 we have social demography, organizational and corporate demography, urban and spacial, anthropological, economic, historical, ecological, biodemography, mathematical and political. There are also new chapters, on marriage and family, demography of gender, and the demography of social stratification.

Compared to other disciplines in the social sciences, demography has had the advantage of data collection (censuses, vital statistics, surveys) and institutional support (statistical offices, United Nations Population Division). Some have claimed that the field is lacking in theory. However, the editors see this conclusion as incorrect: "demography has such an abundance of both formal theory and discursive theory that its theoretical accomplishments rival those of any of the other social sciences" (p. 6). For instance, in the area of fertility, there are theories based on demographic transition, wealth flows, human ecology, political economic, feminist, proximate determinants, biosocial, relative income and diffusion perspectives.

As a student who used Hauser and Duncan (1959) as the bible in studying for comprehensive examinations in the early 1970s, it is delightful to find a comparable book. There is much of value in this book, as there was in the 1959 collection. It is a thorough presentation of the discipline by very qualified authors. It is presented at a graduate level, and would make a good text for a graduate course. Students seeking a quick overview of the field would do well to skim this book.

As a reference book, the collection has an American bias. One beauty of the 1959 collection was the top notch chapters on the discipline and population questions in specific countries: France, Great Britain, Italy, Brazil, India, Pacific Area, and the United States. The prologue of the 2005 edition covers some of this ground, but with a definite bias toward the United States. For instance, only one of the forty-five contributors does not have an address in the United States and it is hard to find a reference other than in English. In the fifteen page subject index, there are only two entries for Canada. Among the close to three thousand names in the index, I could only spot some half dozen from Canada: Balakrishnan, Boyd, Burch, Charbonneau, Halli, Henripin, and Rao. On page eleven, there is a valuable list of the dates at which the various journals in demography started. But nothing is said of Population, the journal of the Institut National d'Etudes Demographiques until English language editions were published in 1989. In terms of associations, even regional US associations receive mention but the national associations in other parts of the world are largely ignored.

As a reference guide, I paid particular attention to the epilogue on "Needed research in demography." This chapter is divided into three sections. The first section reviews the equivalent chapter in Hauser and Duncan (1959), and mostly indicates that much research has been done on the priorities that had been proposed. The second part considers the recommendations made by the various authors of the chapters of the 2005 collection. On the several topics that interested me, I found little that seemed new and exciting. For instance, in the section on marriage and family, the focus is on family change with cohabitation and the recognition of partnerships of homosexual couples, whether the family needs to be based on blood or legal ties, legal rights for homosexuals in marriage and family, and racial disparities. The last section of the chapter elaborates on three research areas that the editors consider worthy of particular attention. These include the study of male fertility, biosocial models in demography, and the study of sexual orientation. While it is valuable to point to these questions, the presentation here again is very American-biased, both in terms of the presentation of the legal evolution and in terms of data sets. We hear that the US censuses of 1990 and 2000 collected data on same-sex unions, and that these have not much been analysed, but we are not told the sample size available in public use files. Studies of residential segregation are suggested, along with studies seeking to determine if laws prohibiting discrimination in employment are necessary. Of more interest is the suggestion that demographers develop a literature about the family practices of homosexuals. No suggestions are made regarding the collection of corresponding vital statistics, on births, union formation/dissolution and deaths.


Hauser, Philip M. and Otis Dudley Duncan, Editors. 1959 The Study of Population: An Inventory and Appraisal. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Roderic Beaujot, University of Western Ontario
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Author:Beaujot, Roderic
Publication:Canadian Journal of Sociology
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2007
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