Caldwell, John C.

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John C. Caldwell began an academic career later than most professional demographers, having spent nearly a decade as a secondary school teacher before starting his Ph.D. studies at the Australian National University (ANU). Since his first academic appointment (at the University of Ghana) in 1962, his research output–much of it in collaboration with his wife, Pat Caldwell–has been prolific, amply compensating for the late start. His early years as a demographer were spent at the Population Council, where he worked in various regions of Africa. Since 1970, his base has been at the ANU, where he is a professor of demography, heading the Department of Demography until 1988 and then serving as associate director of ANU's National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health. He has engaged in extended periods of fieldwork in Africa and South Asia and has organized numerous multi-country research projects. He has served as the president of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (1994–1997).

Caldwell's most notable contributions to population studies have been in the fields of fertility transition and health transition. His works are cited almost de rigeur by those in these fields. His wealth flows theory, first set out in a 1976 article, traced the onset of fertility transition to changes in the direction of intergenerational transfers within the family. Although criticized for its lack of testability, it captured the imagination of many researchers–from the fields of anthropology and economics as well as demography–and stimulated greater attention to field-based micro-demographic research. The theory illustrates Caldwell's willingness to theorize provocatively based on less than complete evidence, and thereby inspiring numerous research studies by others intent on testing his propositions.

Caldwell has done much to revive interest in population theory and give it a greater role in promoting research. He has also made original contributions in many areas of demographic theory. These include the focus on family relationships and family economics for explaining demographic change; the identification of education as a major factor in the survival of individuals and their children; and the significance of the position of women in determining demographic change. Since the late 1980s, he has made a major contribution to the study of the AIDS epidemic in developing countries, notably in Africa, in its social and behavioral context, and to health transition research more generally, through his editorship of the journal Health Transition Review.

In addition to his contributions to theory, Caldwell has also had an important impact on the methodology of population studies. The emphasis he has placed on anthropological-type field research in demography has been adopted by many other demographers, and has fostered a more symbiotic relationship between anthropologists and demographers in studying matters related to demographic change.

See also: Anthropological Demography; Demography, History of; Health Transition; Intergenerational Transfers; Population Thought, Contemporary.


selected works by john c. caldwell.

Caldwell, John C. 1982. Theory of Fertility Decline. London: Academic Press.

——. 1986. "Routes to Low Mortality in Poor Countries." Population and Development Review 12(2): 171–220.

——. 2001. "The Globalization of Fertility Behavior." In Global Fertility Transition, Supplementto Population and Development Review 27: 93–115.

Caldwell, John C., and Pat Caldwell. 1986. Limiting Population Growth, and the Ford Foundation Contribution. London: Frances Pinter.

——. 1996. "The African AIDS epidemic." Scientific American 174(3): 40–46.

Caldwell, John C., P. H. Reddy, and Pat Caldwell. 1988. The Causes of Demographic Change: Experimental Research in South India. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

selected works about john c. caldwell.

Schultz, T. Paul. 1983. "John C. Caldwell, Theory of Fertility Decline." Population and Development Review 9(1): 161–168.

Willis, Robert J. 1982. "The Direction of Intergenerational Transfers and Demographic Transition: The Caldwell Hypothesis Re-examined." Population and Development Review 8(Supp.)(82): 207–234.

Gavin W. Jones