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Demography contains elements of both social science and policy-oriented science, and which of the two has been dominant in a given period has markedly affected the nature of theory and empirical analysis. In the United States a social scientific orientation characterized the work of demographers from the turn of the century, as they sought to explain fertility decline attendant on industrialization. Demographic transition theory, the culmination of this effort, when applied in the 1940s to the prospective experience of the nonindustrialized nations appeared to foreshadow a crisis of population growth outpacing economic growth. The need for intervention to avert crisis led to calls for efforts to induce fertility decline, particularly among high-fertility peasant societies. This shift from social scientific to policy orientation between the mid-1940s and mid-1950s is illustrated in an analysis of the writings of two leading US demographers-Frank W. Notestein and Kingsley Davis.


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Copyright 1983 Wiley and Population Council.

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Population and Development Review

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Hodgson, Dennis. "Demography as social science and policy science." Population and Development Review 9, no. 1 (March 1983), pp. 1-34.

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