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European Journal of Population

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 461–462 | Cite as

Thomas B. Burch: Model-Based Demography: Essays on Integrating Data, Technique and Theory

Springer, Cham, Switzerland, 2018. Demographic Research Monograph Series. Open-access. http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319654324
  • Frans Willekens
Article

Tom Burch advocates a new philosophical perspective on demography: the semantic or model-based view. Demography has been dominated for decades by logical empiricism, which focuses on observations and aims at the discovery of empirical regularities. That dominance resulted in a preoccupation with data and statistical analysis, to the neglect of systematic theory formulation. The proposed perspective shifts the focus from observations to (causal) mechanisms underlying the observations, i.e. from data to processes. Processes operate at different levels from the micro-level of individual action through the meso-level of households, families, peer groups and communities, to the macro-level. Processes interact leading to feedback and two-way dependencies. To capture that complexity, modelling is indispensable. The models Burch envisages are not empirical models, i.e. models of data, but abstract theoretical models of essential mechanisms manifested in data. Burch’s proposal implies a shift...

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)The HagueThe Netherlands

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