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Demography’s theory and approach: (how) has the view from the margins changed?

Wendy Sigle-Rushton

LSE Research Online Documents on Economics from London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library

Abstract: Around the time that Population Studies celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996, Susan Greenhalgh published ‘An intellectual, institutional, and political history of twentieth-century demography’. Her contribution described a discipline that, when viewed from its margins, prompted scholars in other disciplines to ask the following questions: ‘Why is the field still wedded to many of the assumptions of mid-century modernization theory and why are there no critical … perspectives in the discipline?’ (Greenhalgh 1996, p. 27). Those questions still arise today. Similarly, Greenhalgh’s observation that ‘neither the global political economies of the 1970s, nor the postmodernisms and postcolonialities of the 1980s and 1990s, nor the feminisms of any decade have had much perceptible impact on the field’ (pp. 27–8), remains a fairly accurate depiction of research published in Population Studies and other demography journals. In this contribution, focusing predominantly on feminist research and insights, I discuss how little has changed since 1996 and explain why the continued lack of engagement concerns me. Demographers still often fail to appreciate the impossibility of atheoretical ‘just descriptive’ research. Our methods carry assumptions and so rely on (often) implicit theoretical frameworks. Not making frameworks explicit does not mean they do not exert an important influence. I end by proposing that the training of research students should be part of a strategy to effect change.

Keywords: feminist theory; modernization theory; sex role theory; gender; situated knowledge; Wiley deal (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N0 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 17 pages
Date: 2021-12-15
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dem, nep-his, nep-hme and nep-hpe
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Published in Population Studies, 15, December, 2021, 75(S1), pp. 235 - 251. ISSN: 0032-4728

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