Book Review of "Demographic Methods and Concepts" by Rowland

By Katharine Betts
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 14, Number 2 (Winter 2003-2004)
Issue theme: "France: once a nation"

Demographic Methods and Concepts by Donald T. Rowland

Oxford: Oxford University Press; 546 pages, $85 (Australian)

Are you longing for a demography text that is amusing, literate, and comprehensive? Do you want a CD with wonderfully constructed graphics that run the demographic transition through before your very eyes for the country of your choice, that let you build population pyramids, that project populations with different mortality, fertility, and migration assumptions, that illustrate the stages of the epidemilogic transition and much more? If yes, your wishes can now be fulfilled.

Australian demographers who have watched Don Rowland present conference papers on teaching demography know that we have a skilled communicator in the profession. Now some of the fruits of his work in the lecture theater and computer lab have been distilled and presented to a wider audience. This book has been a massive undertaking. It covers population dynamics, period and cohort perspectives, techniques for comparing rates (especially standardization), models (including life tables), spatial patterns and processes, and applied demography. It even has a section on how to write demographic papers.

The text is designed to work for people who are complete beginners but it never patronizes and a student who conscientiously worked through the thirteen chapters would have acquired a sound understanding of demography.

Examples and data from all over the world are provided, together with a host of useful web links. The CD contains files written in Excel and the text provides plenty of help for those unfamiliar with the package.

The book could serve as a self-education package for students unable to enroll in a formal course. But it will be invaluable for teachers in all branches of the social sciences, especially those who would like to teach more demography but who have been looking for an appropriate textbook.

About the author

Katharine Betts, Ph.D., is associate professor of sociology at Swinburne University of Technology, Victoria, Australia, and a frequent contributor to The Social Contract. This review was published in People and Place, vol. 11, no. 3, 2003, published at Monash University.

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