Journals, Population

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Just as other scholars and scientists do, demographers attempt to establish their status in the profession and communicate their ideas and findings to colleagues by publishing in the best journals. They also prefer to be cited in those journals because scoring high in citations is helpful in acquiring research funding, negotiating contracts, obtaining invitations to high-profile conferences, and winning prizes. The field of play is limited, and so the distribution of citations is very unequal and reportedly resembles that of income. Relatively few demographers become famous; some do not leave a trace, and most never achieve more than a modest citation index.

How Demographic Knowledge Travels

In demography, and in population studies in general, it is evident where aspiring and ambitious authors should submit their manuscripts. In a study about the way demographic knowledge travels, Hendrik van Dalen and Kène Henkens show that specialized demographic journals rarely communicate with one another. Those journals play a very modest role in the construction of demographic knowledge. In fact, a majority of the articles published in second-tier journals remain uncited five years after their publication.

Among the 330 population serials that exist worldwide, only 17 have been selected by the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) as being important for the development of the discipline. Most demographic knowledge is created in the major general journals: Population Studies, Population and Development Review, and Demography. The first of these journals is published in Britain, the other two are U.S.-based. (The last named is the journal of the Population Association of America [PAA]). From these three journals information trickles down to other regions and to the specialized journals. Language barriers are a serious problem. Except among English speakers, writing in one's native language is not helpful in gaining a world reputation. Roughly 50 percent of all articles published in the period 1990–1992 in the 17 journals analyzed by the SSCI were written by authors with a U.S. connection.

Increased Specialization

Increased specialization has been one of the dominant characteristics of demographic research since World War II. The remarkable increase in the number and range of population journals is an illustration of that phenomenon. The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), which was established in 1928, has been particularly helpful in the dissemination of demographic knowledge by distributing four demographic journals to its members.

Three of those journals have existed for more than half a century: Population (1946, Paris), Population Studies (1947, London), and Genus (1934, Rome). All three journals cater in principle to the whole field of population studies and to all regions of the world. Migration is a topic that has never been favored by the editors of Population Studies, but in terms of continuity in quality, style, geographic scope, and technical standard of the published papers, that journal has an enviable reputation. The international impact of Population is bound to increase now that the publisher (INED–France's National Institute of Demographic Research) has decided to start publishing all papers simultaneously in English and French. Its coverage of the francophone region, the Balkans, the Baltic region, and Eastern Europe is without parallel. A valuable standard feature in Population is the yearly overview of recent demographic trends in developed countries. Although edited in Italy, Genus uses English as the preferred medium for its wide-ranging contributions to the discipline.

The IUSSP also greatly aided in the distribution of the reference journal Population Index (Princeton), which originally (1934–1936) was the bibliographical journal of the PAA. Unfortunately, its publication ended in 1999. Although its existing database can still be consulted electronically and most demographic journals publish book reviews and lists of the publications they receive, it will surely prove to be a great disadvantage for the discipline that an authoritative bibliographical source abstracting the contents of books, edited volumes, and a great variety of serials and working papers is no longer available. However, the creation of a central site for working papers provides some compensation.

The Population Bulletin of the United Nations and the Population Bulletin published by the Population Reference Bureau (1945) are equally longstanding and broad in orientation. Later additions to the range of journals demographers consult regularly, have on their shelves, or follow through abstracts in Population Index or a similar bibliographic source, most notably POPLINE, have tended to be more specialized. The International Migration Review (1966) and International Migration (1962) address a specialized audience. International Family Planning Perspectives (1974) and Studies in Family Planning (1969) also reflect a clear focus in their titles; they provide vital information for scholars concerned with population change, gender, and reproductive health in developing countries. The title of Population and Development Review (1975) suggests a similarly restricted orientation, but this journal has become one of the most prestigious in the field. It is eminently readable, regularly publishes topical supplements, and contributes to keeping alive the intellectual history of the discipline through its Archives department.

Readers with an interest in the biological aspects of the discipline can read the Journal of Biosocial Science (1968) and Social Biology (1953); for economic demographers the journals of Family Welfare (1954) and Population Economics (1987) are of prime importance. Other comparatively recent additions also are highly specialized: Mathematical Population Studies (1989), Population and Environment (1978), Population Research and Policy Review (1981), and Health Transition Review (1990) are good examples. Historical demographers; demographers concentrating on marriage, cohabitation, and the family; and those who combine studies of the family and history have their own means of communicating. Some of these publications have a long tradition (Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1938); others are more recent and reflect the further specialization noted above (Journal of Family History, 1975; Journal of Family Issues, 1979; Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health (formerly Family Planning Perspectives), 1969.)

To cover areas where demography touches upon public health, gerontology, epidemiology, sociology, anthropology, psychology, policymaking or politics, human resources, the labor force, refugees, ethnic relations, urbanization, or prognoses, other relevant journals exist. The Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (1971), the Revue Européenne des Migration Internationales (1984), and the International Journal of Population Geography (1994) publish studies on international migration.

National and Regional Journals

Many countries have their own population journals or attempt to disseminate their findings internationally through a yearbook. The Polish Population Review (1991); the Hungarian Demográfia (1958); the Czech Demografie (1959); the German Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft (1975); the Yearbook of Population Research in Finland (1963); the Dutch-language Bevolking en Gezin (1971) and the English-language yearbook on the Low Countries associated with it, Population Trends (1975), which deals primarily with the United Kingdom; Demography India (1971); the Japanese-language journal Jinko Mondai Kenkyu (1944); the Mexican journal Estudios Demograficos y Urbanos (1985); and the New Zealand Population Review (1974) are good examples. These periodicals are required reading for regional specialists and frequently provide table headings and summaries in English.

A few of the national journals are attempting to acquire international stature. Recently retitled, the Australian Population Association's Journal of Population Research (1983), for example, has acquired a broad international mandate. Regional journals that are broadly focused substantively but maintain a distinct geographic focus include the European Journal of Population (1984), which still accepts papers in both English and French, is rather limited in size, but has improved in quality and scope; Notas de Población (1972) published in Chile by Celade; the Asian-Pacific Population Journal (1985); and the periodical African Population Studies (1985).

The Internet

The tables of contents of many demographic periodicals can be accessed directly on the Internet. Alternatively, they can be reviewed through the Revue des Revues Démographiques: Subscribers to these journals frequently are able to consult the articles in that manner. Electronic publishing probably is the direction in which several journals will go. Indeed, the online journal Demographic Research published by the new Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research established in Germany is available only on the Internet. In a laudable attempt to reduce the frequently long publication times of traditional journals it conducts review procedures entirely by email. Its focus to date has been slanted toward mortality and morbidity, but that is surely a temporary situation. If it also does well in citation analysis, it could set a new trend.

See also: Bibliographic and Online Resources; Demography, History of; Population Organizations.


Van Dalen, Hendrik P., and Kène Henkens. 1999. "How Influential Are Demographic Journals?" Population and Development Review 25(2): 229–253.

——. 2001. "What Makes a Scientific Article Influential? The Case of Demographers." Scientometrics 50(3): 455–482.

Van Raan, Anthony F. J. 2001. "Two-Step Competition Process Leads to Power-Law Income Distributions. Application to Scientific Publication and Citation Distributions." Physica A 298:530–536.

internet resources.

JSTOR–The Scholarly Journal Archive. <>.

Revue des Revues Démographiques.<>.

University of Wisconsin—Madison Center for Demography and Ecology. <>.

Dirk J. van de Kaa

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