Human Fertility in Latin America: Sociological Perspectives

By J. Mayone Stycos | Go to book overview

4
Social Research on Fertility Control

Demographers spend most of their time correcting other people's mistakes. Traditionally the demographer has had little to say about the way in which his raw material -- census data and birth and death registration data -- is collected. Indeed, the data he uses are rarely collected with his interests in mind, but rather serve political, legal, or economic functions. As a result, the demographer has become especially skilled at correcting, adjusting, and twisting often fairly unreliable or deficient data to suit his purposes. While having very salutary consequences for the development of demographic methodology, this emphasis has tended to shift attention away from theory, and has limited the demographer's success in one of his most important activities, population forecasting.

Thus, in forecasting fertility, demographers have leaned heavily on elegant but mechanical extrapolations, which have not taken into account changes in human motivations. Human motivations have essentially fallen outside the demographer's analytic system, and the "soft data" of the social researcher have been regarded with somewhat condescending suspicion.

Furthermore, so strong have been our puritanical traditions about sex, that social scientists also neglected this area, leaving it to psychological investigators of the abnormal. Indeed it took a zoologist, Alfred Kinsey, to demonstrate to social scientists that mass collection of interview data on sexual behavior was feasible and reasonably reliable. But Kinsey's lesson did not come in time to affect the first social survey on fertility of a significant cross

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