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04 - Demographic Perspectives

04 - Demographic Perspectives - SOCI 121 Population...

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SOCI 121: Population Problems D EMOGRAPHIC P ERSPECTIVES Objectives: Become acquainted with major demographic theories and early population doctrines Provide the Malthusian and Marxian responses to the questions: o What causes population growth and change? o What are the consequences of population growth and change? Compare these early theories and note points of agreement and disagreement Class Notes: What is a demographic perspective? Demographic Perspective – a way of relating fundamental information about population to theories about the way the world works demographically What were Some of the Earliest Positions on Population Growth? Most early (pre-modern) ideas about population were doctrines, not theories o A doctrine is generally taken to be true by definition o A theory is generally accepted as true only if supported by observations Population has been a topic for discussion from the earliest days of written history o See table 1 at the end of these notes o Most early doctrines can be classified as pronatalist or antinatalist Pronatalist positions favor population growth (emphasize quantity) Antinatalist positions oppose population growth (emphasize quality) The earliest demographic analyses largely supported the philosophy of Mercantilism , the idea that a nation’s wealth was determined by the quantity of precious metals it could amass, and that population growth in both colonies and at home would accelerate the process of acquiring these metals, allowing that nation to prosper: o John Graunt is sometimes described as the father demography conducted the first known statistical analysis of demographic data, uncovering regularities o In 1693, Edmund Halley used life table methodology to determine that the life expectancy at birth for a small Polish town with excellent birth and death records was 33.5 years (Twelve years later, he predicted the return of a comet that now bears his name. It was last seen in 1986, but thanks to life expectancies much higher than 18 th Century Poland, most of us will be around to see Halley’s Comet when it returns in 2062!) In the mid 18 th century, David Hume and Robert Wallace both published influential essays on human population that sparked debates continuing today o Is a large, rapidly growing population a sure sign of a society’s good health? o Are the growth of industry and cities, the movement of people from one social class to another, and other aspects of ‘modernization’ good for people overall? o In trying to resolve the dilemmas posed by population growth, can a society depend on the sum of individual self-interests to produce desired outcomes or is considerable state control called for? 1
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SOCI 121: Population Problems The physiocratic school of thought argued that the former was true, and that governments should not interfere in matters like trade Adam Smith, one of the first modern economic theorists, supported the idea that if left to their own devices, people acting in their own self-
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04 - Demographic Perspectives - SOCI 121 Population...

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