Emily Merchant

University of Michigan

2012 to 2013
Dissertation Research Fellow

Prediction and Control: Global Population Projection in the Twentieth Century

Abstract: In the twentieth century the world's population grew faster than it ever had before or ever would again, becoming both the subject of a new science and an object of intervention for states, international agencies, and non-governmental organizations. This dissertation traces the history of global population, population science, and population politics across the twentieth century, focusing on population projections – estimates of future population size and structure – as the critical link between these dimensions. It locates the origins of twentieth-century population science in interwar attempts to quantify future population and in the increasing dependence of governments, scientists, and international agencies on those projections. The story then follows demography into the postwar period to examine its role in the production and solution of the global overpopulation crisis, treating projections as scientific models of population growth that shaped the reality they sought to describe by informing international population control policies and programs. Read Emily's report on her PACHS-sponsored research here.