Read it and weep : Demography I syllabus

Never one to wait till the last minute, I completed the syllabus for my graduate seminar with more than 12 hours to spare.

At UNC the sociology department offers a two-seminar series for students starting out with a concentration in demography, which is also standard for predoctoral trainees at the Carolina Population Center. The course has passed around the department, offering the best of our different perspectives — as well as the risk of inertia. I overhauled it quite a bit, but it still owes lots to Lisa Pearce and Anthony Perez, who taught it most recently.

Took me a long time. But what a moment! Looking down the list of two books and 55 other required or optional readings over 13 weeks, I think: how much would you know if you really read all that? And also: there’s probably no one in the world (not even me) who’s read this combination of things before. Etc.

Here’s a teaser: one graph I made for illustrating population growth. It replicates one John Bongaarts made in 1975, showing where the countries of the world lie on the birth-rate / death-rate axis. Bottom line: when birth rates are higher, population grows. The other 54+ readings are details…

I was happy to add a new book this year: Mara Hvistendahl’s Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. I still plan to post a review here, but let me just say it’s a great example of accessible science writing about demography. It’s well-documented and thorough but also compelling to read and does a great job motivating the issue. (Sure, she overreaches, too. That’s OK.)

Here’s the syllabus; some of the links to the readings will run into pay walls if you’re off campus. I will be updating it with the assignments over the semester — fell free to play along at home…

I hope everyone who has one, has a good fall semester.

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