MPIDR Working Paper

An introduction to anthropological demography

Bernardi, L.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2007-031, 19 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (August 2007)
This paper is now published in Demographic Research (2007) This working paper has been published. See the link above for further information.
Open Access


Anthropological demography is a specialty within demography which uses anthropological theory and methods to provide a better understanding of demographic phenomena in current and past populations. Its genesis and ongoing growth lie at the intersection between demography and socio-cultural anthropology and with their efforts to understand population processes, mainly fertility, migration, and mortality. Both disciplines share a common research object, namely human populations, and they focus on mutually complementary aspects of this research object: demography is statistically oriented and is mainly concerned with the dynamic forces defining population size and structure and their variation across time and space, whereas socio-cultural anthropology is interpretative and focuses on the social organization shaping the production and reproduction of human populations. The main theoretical concepts in anthropological demography are culture, gender, and political economy; its empirical research approach includes a mix of quantitative and qualitative methodologies applied to case studies. Ethnographic fieldwork and participant observation are often central to this approach as is an interpretative reading of secondary data and historical material.
Keywords: anthropology, culture, ethnography, fertility, field activity, gender, methods of analysis, migration, mortality
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.