Ryder, Norman B.

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(1923– )

Canadian-American demographer and sociologist, Norman B. Ryder studied political economy at the University of Toronto and obtained his Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University in 1951. In the first years of his career, he worked at the University of Toronto and the Dominion Bureau of Statistics– now Statistics Canada–in Ottawa. He joined the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin in 1956, where he founded the Center for Demography and Ecology and was appointed Thorstein Veblen Professor of Sociology. He moved to Princeton University in 1971 as professor of sociology but was based primarily at Princeton's Office of Population Research. He was president of the Population Association of America (1972–1973) and of the Sociological Research Association (1974–1975).

Three articles published in 1964 and 1965 stemming from his doctoral thesis–on the concept of a population, on "demographic translation" (between period and cohort measures), and on the cohort as a concept in the study of social change–were early major contributions to theory and methodology in demography. (The thesis itself, The Cohort Approach, was published in 1980.) Independently of French demographer Louis Henry (1911–1991), he devised parity-progression measures of fertility change and he brought birth history and parity analysis to the center of fertility forecasting.

Ryder was co-director, with American demographer Charles F. Westoff (b. 1927), of the U.S. National Fertility Study, the three rounds of which (1965, 1970, and 1975) produced evidence of the widespread diffusion of modern contraception and recorded the distinctive patterns of reproductive behavior of American families in the middle decades of the twentieth century.

Ryder was an important interpreter of the post-World War II baby boom, emphasizing its elements of continuity with the past–for example, noting that the birth-rate increase did not entail a reversal of the long-run decline in higher-parity births. He took the Princeton side in asserting a determinative role of the pill in the renewed American fertility decline, as against the view from Berkeley, espoused principally by Judith Blake, of demand-driven change. In the 1970s he was a key player in the design of the World Fertility Survey, although later (in a 1986 review of a volume summarizing its findings) quite critical of WFS achievements. He also made significant contributions to family demography.

See also: Cohort Analysis; Demography, History of; Henry, Louis.


selected works by norman b. ryder. Ryder, Norman B. 1964. "Notes on the Concept of a Population." American Journal of Sociology 69(5): 447–463

——. 1964. "The Process of Demographic Translation." Demography 1: 74–82.

——. 1965. "The Cohort as a Concept in the Study of Social Change." American Sociological Review 30(6) 843–861.

——. 1975. "Reproductive Behavior and the Family Life Cycle." In The Population Debate: Dimensions and Perspectives. Papers of the World Population Conference, Bucharest, 1974. New York: United Nations. Volume 2, pp. 278–288.

——. 1980. The Cohort Approach: Essays in the Measurement of Temporal Variations in Demographic Behavior. New York: Arno Press.

——. 1982. Progressive Fertility Analysis. (World Fertility Survey, Technical Bulletin no. 8) The Hague, Netherlands: International Statistical Institute.

——. 1983. "Fertility and Family Structure." Population Bulletin of the United Nations 15: 15–34.

——. 1986. "Observations on the History of Cohort Fertility in the United States." Population and Development Review 12: 617–643.

——. 1990. "What is Going to Happen to American Fertility?" Population and Development Review 16: 433–454.

Ryder, Norman B., and Charles F. Westoff. 1971. Reproduction in the United States 1965. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Westoff, Charles F., and Norman B. Ryder. 1977. The Contraceptive Revolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press.