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Title: Population Problems? Demographic Knowledge and Fertility in Great Britain and France, 1945-2005
Authors: Marshall, Emily Ann
Advisors: Zelizer, Viviana A.
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: Comparative-Historical
Sociology of knowledge
Subjects: Sociology
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: ABSTRACT Population size has been a matter of concern for rulers and states for centuries. Fears of over- and under-population led to extensive political debate and the implementation of numerous policies during the past century. Yet it is difficult to determine why demographic patterns like fertility rates sometimes command the attention of policymakers and the general public, and at other times disappear from public debate. This dissertation uses a multi-method comparative case study to investigate organizational and cultural factors that led to the development of sharply contrasting understandings of national fertility rates in two countries in the post-World War II twentieth century: strong concerns about fertility decline among French policymakers and publics, but a nearly complete lack of concern among their British counterparts, despite their strikingly similar national fertility rates. I focus on demographic experts as key actors shaping discussion of population trends during this period. By examining how demographic experts defined their disciplinary contributions, made projections for the demographic future, and constructed disciplinary research agendas, this study shows how cross-national differences created different roles for demographic experts in defining and addressing population "problems," at the same time as they shaped demographers' own definitions of these problems. My analysis shows how demographers' organizational locations and intellectual traditions shaped their contributions to three spheres for the production of policy-relevant demographic knowledge: state population commissions, national population projections, and academic publications in demography journals. I argue that the two countries' different interpretations of similar fertility trends were shaped by cross-national differences in the institutional structures demographers inhabited, as well as their cultural traditions of thought about population change. Demographic experts' contributions to public debate were mediated by institutional configurations: in France, national institutional support gave them a prominent role in public debates and encouraged the study of French fertility. Combined with an intellectual tradition theorizing indefinite fertility decline, this led to a focus on low-fertility contexts. In Britain, however, the absence of national institutional support, combined with relatively strong support for the study of international population issues in high-fertility contexts, led demographers to focus on global population growth, rather than national decline. These different institutional and cultural frameworks profoundly shaped the trajectories of demographic understandings of population in Great Britain and France, leading to different concerns over the problem of population.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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