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dc.contributor.authorGraham, Elspeth
dc.identifier.citationGraham , E 2021 , ' Theory and explanation in demography : the case of low fertility in Europe ' , Population Studies-A Journal of Demography , vol. 75 , no. Supplement 1 , pp. 133-155 .
dc.identifier.otherPURE: 275577287
dc.identifier.otherPURE UUID: 499b2788-5fac-4f9f-9a60-a53ad9fc658d
dc.identifier.otherScopus: 85121330667
dc.identifier.otherWOS: 000729612300007
dc.description.abstractIn the 50th anniversary edition of Population Studies, John Hobcraft commented that demographers spend too little time trying to explain the phenomena they measure and describe. A quarter of a century on, this paper looks at the state of theory and explanation in contemporary demography. I ask how demographers have approached the task of explanation since Hobcraft’s comment, grounding the discussion in the mainstream literature on low fertility in Europe. Using selected examples, I critically review macro- and micro-level approaches to explanation, highlighting some of the philosophical problems that each encounters. I argue that different conceptions of what demography is, and the explanatory language fertility researchers use, lead to differences in explanatory strategies that are rarely explicitly recognized. I also consider how critical theories challenge demographers to think in new ways. Despite the increasing attention paid to theory and explanation, I conclude that more engagement with the philosophy of social sciences is needed before fertility researchers can legitimately claim their studies do as much to explain and understand as to quantify and describe.
dc.relation.ispartofPopulation Studies-A Journal of Demographyen
dc.rightsCopyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.en
dc.subjectCritical social theoryen
dc.subjectMacro levelen
dc.subjectMicro levelen
dc.subjectLow fertilityen
dc.subjectH Social Sciencesen
dc.subjectG Geography (General)en
dc.titleTheory and explanation in demography : the case of low fertility in Europeen
dc.typeJournal articleen
dc.description.versionPublisher PDFen
dc.contributor.institutionUniversity of St Andrews.School of Geography & Sustainable Developmenten
dc.description.statusPeer revieweden

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