Demography’s Changing Intellectual Landscape: A Bibliometric Analysis of the Leading Anglophone Journals, 1950–2020

M. Giovanna Merli, James Moody, Ashton Verdery, Mark Yacoub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much of what we know about the intellectual landscape of anglophone demography comes from two sources: subjective narratives authored by leaders in the field, whose reviews and observations are derived from their research experience and field-specific knowledge; and professional histories covering the field’s foundational controversies, which tend to focus on individuals, institutions, and influence. Here we use bibliographic information from all articles published in the three leading journals of anglophone demography—Demography, Population Studies, and Population and Development Review—to survey the changing contours of anglophone demography’s key research areas over the past 70 years. We characterize the field of demography by applying a two-pronged, data-grounded approach from the sociology of science. The first uses natural language processing that lets the substance of the field emerge from the con tents of pub li ca tion records and applies social network ana ly ses to iden tify groups of papers that talk about the same thing. The second uses bibliometric tools to capture the “conversations” of demography with other disciplines. Our goals are to (1) identify the primary topics of demography since the discipline first gained prominence as an organized field; (2) assess changes in the field’s intellectual cohesion and the top-i cal areas that have grown or shrunk; and (3) examine how demographers place their work in relationship to other disciplines, the visibility and influence of demographic research in the broader scien tific liter a ture, and the cross-disci plin ary transla tional reach of demographic research. Results provide a dynamic view of the field’s scientific development in the second half of the twentieth century and the first two decades of the twenty-first century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)865-890
Number of pages26
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography

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