Volume 30 - Article 32 | Pages 911–924 Author has provided data and code for replicating results

Quantifying paradigm change in demography

By Jakub Bijak, Daniel Courgeau, Eric Silverman, Robert Franck

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Date received:11 Oct 2013
Date published:25 Mar 2014
Word count:2436
Keywords:demographic paradigms, empiricism, Google books, history of demography, N-grams
Additional files:readme.30-32 (text file, 916 Byte)
 demographic-research.30-32 (zip file, 12 kB)


Background: Demography is a uniquely empirical research area amongst the social sciences. We posit that the same principle of empiricism should be applied to studies of the population sciences as a discipline, contributing to greater self-awareness amongst its practitioners.

Objective: The paper aims to include measurable data in the study of changes in selected demographic paradigms and perspectives.

Methods: The presented analysis is descriptive and is based on a series of simple measures obtained from the free online tool Google Books Ngram Viewer, which includes frequencies of word groupings (n-grams) in different collections of books digitised by Google.

Results: The tentative findings corroborate the shifts in the demographic paradigms identified in the literature -- from cross-sectional, through longitudinal, to event-history and multilevel approaches.

Conclusions: These findings identify a promising area of enquiry into the development of demography as a social science discipline. We postulate that more detailed enquiries in this area in the future could lead to establishing History of Population Thought as a new sub-discipline within population sciences.

Author's Affiliation

Jakub Bijak - University of Southampton, United Kingdom [Email]
Daniel Courgeau - Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED), France [Email]
Eric Silverman - University of Southampton, United Kingdom [Email]
Robert Franck - Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium [Email]

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