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Article

G. Cristina Mora

The question of how to classify and count Latinxs has perplexed citizens and state officials alike for decades. Although Latinxs in the United States have been counted in every census the nation has conducted, it was not until the 1930s that the issue of race came to the fore as the politics of who Latinxs were and whether the government should simply classify them as White became contested. These issues were amplified in the 1960s when Chicano and Boricua—Puerto Rican—activists, inspired by the Black civil rights movement, demanded that their communities be counted as distinct from Anglos. Decades of racial terror, community denigration, and colonialism, they contended, had made the Latinx experience distinct from that of Whites. A separate classification, activists argued, would allow them to have data on the state of their communities and make claims on government resources. Having census data on Hispanic/Latino poverty, for example, would allow Latinx advocacy groups to lobby for anti-poverty programs in their communities. Yet the issue of race and Latinxs continued to be thorny as the Census Bureau struggled with how to create a classification broad enough to encompass the immense racial, social, and cultural diversity of Latinxs. As of 2020, the issue remains unresolved as the Bureau continues to officially classify Latinxs as ethnically Hispanic/Latino but racially White, even though the bulk of research shows that about half of Latinxs consistently check the “some other race” box on census forms. More recent Latinx census politics centers on the issue of whether the Census Bureau should include a citizenship question on census forms. Latinx advocacy groups and academics have long argued that such a question would dampen Latinx census participation and effect the usefulness of census data for making claims about the size, growth, and future of the Latinx community. These politics came to a head in the months leading up to the 2020 census count as the Trump administration attempted to overturn decades of protocol and add a citizenship question to the decennial census form.

Article

Ben Akrigg

The demography of Greece is a very difficult subject to investigate because of the shortage of relevant statistical data. Ancient authors did not write any books about demography and give hardly any figures for population sizes, and none at all for vital rates. Owing to the emphasis on war in ancient historiography, most ancient demographic estimates relate to the size of military forces or to the manpower available for military purposes—i.e., to adult males only. Total population sizes must be extrapolated from such information because women, children, and slaves were usually not enumerated at all. Moreover, literary authors were prone to exaggeration—with respect to the size of Persian armies, for example—although Thucydides (2) was a notable exception to this rule. Even in Classical Athens, for which the sources are relatively abundant, it seems unlikely that there was a central register of hoplites in addition to the deme registers. In general, Greek states did not have taxes payable by all inhabitants that would have required the maintenance of detailed records for financial purposes, and censuses of citizens were rare in the ancient Greek world. It is certain, however, that both mortality and fertility in ancient Greece were high by the standards of modern developed countries. Human mobility, whether voluntary or involuntary, was also an important factor in the population history of individual cities.

Article

Saskia Hin

Roman population size and population trends have been debated for long by proponents of low and high counts; these have recently been joined by proponents of a middle count. Each is based on a different interpretation of the enigmatic Roman census figures. Different understandings of patterns of death and disease, of marriage, of childbearing, and of infanticide follow on from these interpretations. Recent studies have added new perspectives, drawing on archaeological finds, and have started to pay more attention to migration flows.

There are two different kinds of questions historians might wish to ask about the population of the Roman world: How large was it or any of its constituent parts? And what were the patterns and tendencies of birth rates, death rates, and migration rates, with their implications for overall growth or decline?

Five sources of information offer imperfect answers to the first kind of question: census figures, mostly but not exclusively, for the Roman Republic and early Empire, where they served for taxation, military recruitment, and political purposes; figures relating to the feeding of (part of) the population of the city of Rome; occasional references to the population of particular cities or areas, usually without any possibility of knowing on what they were based; figures for the carrying capacity of different areas of the Roman world in the earliest post-Roman periods for which reasonably reliable figures exist; and, finally, archaeological survey evidence that provides indications of change in land use, and implicitly of population change over time.

Article

British views of African populations from 1800 to 1970 reflected the larger discourse about Africa in this period. These views shaped how the British state and private groups attempted to measure and influence African population trends. In the precolonial era, travelers painted a picture of an underpopulated continent ravaged by war and slavery. Malthus used these accounts in his depiction of African populations limited by insecurity, low productivity, and primitive customs. Malthus’s view would dominate British ideas of African population into the colonial era. Prior to that, missionary groups and antislavery activists invoked these ideas to justify efforts to change African customs through conversion and free labor. In the colonial era, the belief in underpopulation rationalized state interventions in African societies through forced labor and public health. Colonial regimes attempted to measure and classify their populations to facilitate taxation and administration. These early surveys failed to produce adequate results and estimates of African populations remained unreliable. Despite the absence of data, British officials and demographers continued to argue that lack of population represented a fundamental obstacle to development. Efforts to address this concern made little headway before the late 1930s, when the international criticism of empire forced British officials to embrace a more interventionist colonial state. Beginning in the late 1930s, British officials and demographers warned of signs of overpopulation, even though reliable census data remained elusive. As part of the postwar drive for development, officials used resettlement programs and agricultural schemes to improve productivity and to address presumed population pressure. In the late colonial era, the British allowed the creation of birth control clinics in African colonies. These private efforts became the basis of an international effort of population control focused on Africa that began in the late 1960s. Since the 1980s, scholars have created alternative explanations of African historical demography, relying on a variety of sources to challenge the existing paradigm.

Article

Latin America ranks highest in the world in markers of social and economic inequality, as well as in the negative effects of inequality on other realms of social life, such as access to basic services, political power, and, in many countries, unfair treatment by police and the justice system. Yet in Latin America it is not possible to talk about racism, ethnic-racial discrimination, and inequality without taking into consideration the hegemonic narratives of mestizaje and racial democracy that shape the way many Latin American nations think about themselves today. Can a region characterized by extreme levels of social inequality also be ethnically and racially democratic? The pattern of ethnic and racial relations in Latin America is marked by discrimination, but at the same time, it creates mechanisms that prevent individuals from recognizing the existence of discrimination against themselves. This reality carries several complications for census-taking and other forms of statistical data collection intended to measure ethnic-racial inequality. Because the main paradigms of analysis of social inequality prioritize economics and class, they have directly or indirectly strengthened the discourse that in Latin America, there is no racism. Certainly, the future of research on race relations and inequality in Latin America will benefit from new demographic data and public opinion surveys, carried out since the turn of the century, which include the identification of indigenous and Afro-descendant people. This trend may advance the production of studies grounded in more robust empirical evidence of ethnic-racial asymmetry.

Article

FamilySearch, which constitutes the largest genealogical archival project and database in the world, offers rich online resources for research on the history of Latin America. FamilySearch constitutes an institutional arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church, dedicated to genealogical research. It offers a wealth of resources with enormous potential for historical research on a broad range of topics and through diverse methods of investigation. The digital collection, which expands continuously, includes archival material from all the major regions of the world, including Latin America. For Latin America, the strength of the collection rests with parish and civil registers, censuses, and secondary sources on the genealogical and family history of the region.

Article

During the viceregal period, the population of New Spain was counted various times. However, censuses, which can be called modern, did not begin until the end of the 18th century. The most important of these is the so-called Revillagigedo census, which led to a very interesting debate: should the population be counted one by one or is it better to calculate it with indirect data? This is a problem that continues to exist in the 21st century. In 1812, under the Constitution of Cádiz, all provinces, including overseas ones, were asked to carry out censuses and produce statistics, which led to a proliferation of figures during the first years of the War of Independence and afterward. From 1826 onward, “deviation from the norm” was registered. It was now important not only to count inhabitants but also to calculate how many criminals there were and how many sick people were registered in the statistics, which led to an effort at quantification. Both public officials and those regarded as “wise,” the scientists of the day, were interested in statistics. The low crime rate in Mexico City compared to Paris led to the assumption of the existence of an exceptional “Mexican type of man” with a very low percentage of criminals. The regularity offered by the “Law of Great Numbers” fascinated the inhabitants of the 19th century. However, in the second half of the century, statistical bulletins contained very grim data. Some doctors concerned with collecting statistics—who were actually public health reformers—produced terrible numbers; the mortality in Mexico City was horrifying. In order to verify and compare data, there was a great demand to create a specialized central office. This was founded in 1882 and was given the task of carrying out censuses at the end of the 19th century, something done successfully.

Article

Since gaining independence, Mexico has consistently sought to improve and strengthen its official statistics collection process. This ongoing process of institutional continuity—beginning in the second half of the 19th century and continues into the first decades of the 21st century—can be divided into three discernible stages. The first stage lasted from 1882 to 1917 and was marked by the creation of a specialized government department that failed to provide cohesion to official statistics. During this stage, statistics were gathered only at a state level and through population censuses. The second stage began with the First Post-Revolutionary Statistics Act of 1922 and ended with the Statistics Act of 1983, which created the National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Informatics (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática, or INEGI). This long second stage can be further divided into three sub-stages that directly influenced the development of official statistics: (a) 1917–1950: a time of simultaneous political instability and institutional strengthening; (b) 1950–1970: a period of economic stability known as the “Mexican miracle” that allowed for the fortification of official statistics; and (c) 1983–2008: a period when the official statistics system became integrated, which allowed for decentralization, and subsequently autonomous operation of the INEGI, an opening up of the economy, and a transition to democracy. The third stage is still a work in progress, but it has well-defined features: permanent coordination with regional and international statistics offices, statistical diversification, and the strengthening of the autonomy of the National Statistical and Geographic Information System (Sistema Nacional de Información Estadística y Geográfica, or SNIEG).