Data, Models, Theory and Reality: The Structure of Demographic Knowledge

  • Thomas K. Burch
Part of the Contributions to Economics book series (CE)


The development of demographic theory has been hampered by the widespread adherence — not always self-conscious — to the methodological doctrines of logical empiricism. According to this view, theory arises from empirical generalizations, and can be rejected if empirical exceptions or counter-examples are brought forward. An alternative view of theory sees it as an imaginative construction in response to data, a construction that is true by definition, but not a true description of the real world. As an abstraction it necessarily misrepresents the concrete world. The question is whether a theory is close enough to some part of the real world in certain respects to serve some well-defined purpose. Examples of this alternative view are found in the ‘semantic’ school of philosophy of science, but also in the work of some leading demographers and a few other social scientists. When seen from this alternate perspective, demography actually has more and better theory than is commonly thought.


Transition Theory Fertility Decline Fertility Transition Multi Variate Statistical Model Oxford English Dictionary 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas K. Burch
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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