Cover image for From birth to death : a consumer's guide to population studies
From birth to death : a consumer's guide to population studies
Petersen, William.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Publishers, [2000]

Physical Description:
197 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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HB3505 .P48 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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From Birth to Death is a detailed analysis of how population statistics are collected in the United States, particularly by the Bureau of the Census. It describes the errors and other flaws typically found in such data.

Petersen sets out the fundamentals of demography and reviews the current proposal to use sampling in the census. He then reviews examples of how ignoring age and sex structure leads to false conclusions. Petersen explores race and ethnicity and the dilemmas inherent in the necessarily ambiguous definitions of these categories. He also analyzes the problems of women who postpone having children to ages when risks of failure become significant.

The author also reviews the two most prominent population theories¿Malthus and the fertility transition¿and questions why predictions of future population size are often completely wrong. The final chapter discusses the pros and cons of state intervention in the control of fertility and efforts to cut family size in less developed countries and their unclear results. A principal topic is the relative accuracy of population statistics and the degree to which one should accept data as published. The main focus is on the United States and especially on the Bureau of the Census, but general points are sometimes illustrated with examples of how data from other countries should be evaluated.

Author Notes

William Petersen is Robert Lazarus Professor of Social Demography Emeritus at Ohio State University.

Table of Contents

1. Population: The Fundamentalsp. 1
2. Age and Sexp. 23
3. Population Compositionp. 37
4. From Fecundity to Fertilityp. 49
5. Mortalityp. 73
6. Healthp. 97
7. Prehistoric and Primitive Populationsp. 109
8. Population Theoriesp. 123
9. Forecasts and Projectionsp. 133
10. State Control of Populationp. 145
11. Conclusionsp. 165
Notesp. 169
Indexp. 191