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The Study of Man: The Stork Surprises the Demographers

- Abstract

THE public opinion pollers are not the only professional group of social scientists who have in recent years been exposed as false prophets. Although their mishaps have been less publicized than those of Mr. Gallup and his confreres, our population experts have seen their careful forecasts of the decline of American population dramatically upset by a sudden rise in the birth rate following years of declining fertility. To the consternation of the experts, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and even the war-ravaged nations of Europe, have shown the same sharp upward trend, and the self-criticism evoked in the ranks of demographers has been even sharper than that of the opinion pollsters after the 1948 fiasco. At the present time, most American demographers are engaged in re-examining and reformulating their long-standing assumptions about the broad course of population growth, as well as the technical methods used by them in past predictions. As the April 1949 issue of Population Index sadly noted: “Until recently the course of population development in Western nations was generally believed to be well charted and understood. This is now a matter of some doubt.”

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