, Volume 26, Issue 5-6, pp 457-476

Demography as a Spatial Social Science

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Abstract

Scholars in many social science disciplines have taken note of the re-emerging interest in issues concerning social processes embedded within a spatial context. While some argue that this awakening is refreshing and new and, in fact, long overdue, I demonstrate that spatially focused demographic theories and research agendas clearly predate contemporary interest in these topics. I assert that recent methodological advancements have merely encouraged and brought refinement to the expanding body of spatially oriented population research—research strongly rooted in demographic tradition and practice. Indeed, I make the claim that, until roughly the mid-20th century, virtually all demography in the United States (and elsewhere, but not specifically examined here) was spatial demography. Then, shortly after mid-century, a paradigm shift occurred, and the scientific study of population quickly came to be dominated by attention to the individual as the agent of demographic action. Traditional spatial demography—macro-demography—gave way to micro-demography, and, I argue, most demographers simply abandoned the data and approach of spatial demography. In closing the paper I include a brief discussion of the recent awakening that has come to spatial demographers from developments in other disciplines, principally geography, regional science, and spatial econometrics.