What are the Developments in Early Twentieth Century in the Field of Population Studies?


In the early years of the twentieth century, demographers from England, other European countries and the United States started taking interest in the study of fertility. The birth rate in England had started declining since the late nineteenth century; and in order to investigate its causes, the National Birth Rate Commission was appointed in 1916.

Even before that, a question on the fertility of married women was asked at the time of the census of 1911. In 1922, A.M. Carr-Saunders, a biologist, published his book, The Population Problem, containing a systematic statement of the problems of population size and growth and a discussion of the genetic question.

Up to 1938, there was no post in the British Universities devoted exclusively to population studies, and there were very few scholars whose main interest was in this field. Even Carr-Saunders, who devoted himself mainly to population studies, was only Professor of Social Sciences.


In 1930, Professor Lancelot Hogbe, who was greatly interested in population problems, was appointed to the chair of social biology a position in which he continued till 1937; after which the department was abolished.

In 1938, for the first time, an academic post was created in Britain when R.R. Kuezynski was appointed Reader in Demography in the London School of Economics.

The declining birth rate was the cause of much concern in Britain. In 1936, a Population Investigation Commission was appointed to study this problem and other related matters, with A.M. Carr-Saunders as Chairman and D.V. Glass as its Research Secretary. In 1943, a Royal Commission was set up to enquire into the reasons for the falling birth rate.

The report of this commission, submitted in 1949, made a considerable contribution to the development of population studies.


The developments in the United States of America are also worth noting. John Durand considers Walter Willcox to be the first American demographer. A professor at Cornell University, Willcox published his statistical study of divorce in 1891.

He also influenced the development of other demographers. It was, however, in the 1920s that population studies really took root in the United States. In 1925, Louis I. Dubblin and Alfred J. Lotka published a treatise on the stable population model.

Lotka’s contribution is even today recognised as an important landmark in the development of population studies. In 1922, the Scripps Foundation for Research in Population Problems was established at Miami University, with Warren Thompson, the noted demographer, as Director, and P.K. Whelpton, another important demographer, as his associate.

The Population Association of America was established at Princeton University in 1937 under the directorship of Frank W. Notestein.


Since the 1920s, the Milbank Memorial Fund of New York City has been interested in population matters and, under the leadership of Clyde Kiser, published valuable material in the field of population studies.

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