Introduction: Population and Society
Lecture 1: Introduction
Social processes are closely linked with human population. Therefore, for students of society it is
important to study characteristics of population. According to the latest estimates of United Nations
Population Fund, the size of India’s population is 1,198.0 millions. Imagine if the size of population of
India were 120 million, i.e., one-tenth of the present population, what would be its impact on society.
Would we have the same level of poverty and unemployment? Would we have the same level of
conflicts and chaos? Would that affect the position of India in the international politics? Are there only
good consequences of lower population or there are some harmful consequences too? Remember that
today in India a city like Mumbai itself has more population than you are imagining for whole India. You
will learn that the relationship between population and society is not one way. Not only population
determines structure and processes of society but society also determines the population characteristics
and dynamics. Is it not true that industrialization and development have reduced family size in all the
Western countries? Is it not true that concern for children’s education leads to use of contraception; and
women’s employment improves their decision making power in the family? It is hoped that after
completing this course a student of sociology will be able to relate population trends and policies with
society and social change.
This course aims at understanding of various linkages between population and society at various
levels: national, regional, village, household and individual. An attempt has been made to present
material in a manner that a graduate student of sociology can grasp the subject without difficulty. There
is only one module that requires some familiarity with statistics and basic mathematics. This is Chapter 4
on models. All other chapters are devoted to substantive issues. Questions given at the end of each
module would help the students in self evaluation.
POPULATION STUDIES AS A BRANCH OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
Population studies is a branch of social sciences. Social sciences include sociology, economics,
psychology, political science and anthropology. Not only sociologists but economists, psychologists,
political scientists, anthropologists, and social historians have also contributed to development of theory
of population. Table 1.1, given in a following slide, shows some illustrative questions of interest to
different social scientists working in the field of population studies.
Economists are interested in economic aspects of demographic phenomena. They may use cost-
benefit approach to reproductive decision making or migration. Psychologists focus on individual
differences. Political scientists explain everything in terms of power and forms of state. Anthropologists
have been traditionally interested in culture of preliterate societies though these days they also study
urban and industrial organizations and examine belief systems, symbolic communication, patterns of
interaction and behaviour, and values. Social historians examine historical roots of population changes
and rise and fall of death rate, migration and nuptiality (marriage). Sociologists claim that they study
population variables in terms of social structure.
It may be said that in the field of population research sociologists are playing an increasing role. The
• While other disciplines focus on one specific aspect of reality sociologists attempt to explain things
in a holistic perspective.
• Sociologists have the advantage of freely borrowing concepts and methodologies from all other
branches of social sciences.
• Sociologists are the first to venture into new areas as they are less constrained by disciplinary
• Sociologists who take whole society as the level of analysis are in a better position to explain
differences between different societies and cultures.
However, the entry of sociologists in the field of population is relatively new.