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IUSSP Laureate 2000. Norman Ryder

Speech by Jacques Vallin at the Award Ceremony, Los Angeles, March 24 2000

Dear Norman,Jacques Vallin and Wolfgang Lutz

On behalf of the council of the IUSSP, and on behalf of its President Jose Alberto Magno de Carvalho, who, unfortunately, was not able to come, I have the great honour and the great pleasure to present you the IUSSP award for the year 2000.


It’s a great honour for me, and, obviously, a great pleasure, but I am also a little bit shy about it. When you wrote, in 1944, "The Economic Theory of Socialism", I still was a 3-year old baby, and you even published, in 1956, an article inPopulation far before I reached INED, at a time where I had not yet completed secondary school! More than a colleague, you are a father in science and you can easily understand why I am proud to play my role of to-day but also why I am a bit apprehensive.


Fortunately, I got some experience when, exactly one year ago, in the same context of PAA meeting, I had to do the same for Sam Preston. After doing the job for Sam, perhaps I can dare to do it for you.


Sam last year, you this year, both of you at a PAA meeting: it is becoming a tradition! Does it mean that only American demographers are good enough to become Laureate of the IUSSP? Fortunately not. And IUSSP members can be reassured: the list of past laureates does not only include American fellows. But it is true that many American demographers have played a prominent role in the development of population studies and I think that the union’s selection of Laureates is recognising this fact. I also think, Norman, that you are one of those American demographers who played a prominent role.


American? For sure, you are definitely American, since you became a uS citizen in 1962, but I was told that you came from Canada. To be brief, you were an immigrant. But what an immigrant! Let me tell a joke. You probably know the Belgium paradox of brain drain. The question is "what happens when a Walloon migrates toryder4.jpg (63000 bytes)Flanders?" Of course, the answer depends on who asks the question. Let us say that the interviewer is a Walloon. The answer is obviously that "the intelligence quotient of the two parts of Belgium is improving". Why? Because a Walloon must be very stupid to go to Flanders but, stupid he is, he will always be cleverer than any Flemish! Naturally, Norman, you are a clear exception to this paradox. But you are also an exception to the reverse proposal which would assume that migration from Canada to the States would diminish the scientific level of the two countries. For sure, we can say, without being excessively disagreeable to our Canadian colleagues, that when you left Canada, they lost a lot. However, far from pushing down the level of American population studies, without any disgrace to our American colleagues, we must recognise that you firmly pushed it up! Even more. In many ways, You simply pushed up the whole international demographic community.


It would take too long to summarise all your contributions to the development of demographic science. However, you were so productive in three directions that if I were asked to characterise Norman Ryder’s main writings by only three words I could say, without any hesitation: "survey", "family" and, naturally "cohort".


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Survey.   Survey, because you devoted a great part of your expertise to the success of the famous series of American fertility surveys, especially when you were directing the National Fertility Studies of 1965, 1970 and 1975. You did it with very great enthusiasm and efficiency, which resulted not only in impressive findings very carefully and precisely related in meticulous papers and reports but also in a splendid best seller "The ContraceptiveRevolution" published with Charles Westoff, in 1977 by Princeton university Press. No doubt, this huge experience with uS fertility surveys had a beneficial influence on the whole programme of the World Fertility Survey where you were consultant for more than twelve years, from 1972 to 1984. The importance you gave to this task was clearly expressed when you chose it as the theme of your presidential address to the 1973 PAA meeting. So great was your attachment to the matter, so great was your ambition for the quality and the usefulness of these surveys, that, far from delivering a panegyric of their already guaranteed success, you did not hesitate to make strong critiques of your own work. It was, of course, with the hope of improving the forthcoming new surveys but it was nevertheless terribly courageous and remarkably profitable for everybody. One of these critiques, if I remember well, was that, in the search of an explanation for fertility changes, we do not pay enough attention to the fact that they rely, to a large extent, on the influence of norms that are properties of socio-cultural groups. We might take more account of collective variables alongside individual ones. I sincerely think that we have not finished exploring all the aspects of such a critique…

Family. The family is the "primary group" where norms find their way of diffusion but it is also, partly, their source. Perhaps it is one of the reasons why, after fertility and contraceptive use, you became more and more interested in the family. Looking through the long list of your numerous publications , the word family appearedryder5.jpg (68807 bytes) for the first time in the title of an article in 1969 at the IUSSP General Conference in London: "Family Limitation in the united States". To tell the truth, at this stage it is still more about fertility control than family as such, but progressively the family comes to the heart of your concerns, when we go from "The Family in Developed Countries", published in Scientific American in 1974, to "Reproductive Behavior and the Family Life Cycle" in the 1975 issue ofPopulation Studies, and, at the end, to "Models for Family Demography" which appeared in the late seventies in thePopulation Bulletin of the united Nations. Finally, in the mid eighties, you were the inescapable pioneer in this field and invited as such to produce two major contributions to the IUSSP book edited by John Bongaarts, Thomas Burch and Kenneth Watcher on "Family Demography".


Finally: Cohort. Fertility surveys and family demography are crucial but cohort analysis is certainly the governing principle of your whole career as well as of your world wide reputation. And this is true from the beginning, since the PhD dissertation you defended at Princeton was "The Cohort Approach". But your adventure on the international scene started with the paper you presented at the 1954 World Population Conference, in Rome, when you wrote that "the recent revival in Western birth rates is characterised as a fluctuation in the timing of cohort fertility manifested in a fluctuation in the amount of period fertility". Almost all was already said in this short sentence. But it opened the door to so many developments, among which I want to quote again your famous article in the 1956 issue of Population, introduced by Louis Henry, saying "il faut convenir que l’analyse par cohorte a acquis droit de cité et qu’elle est largement utilisée; un essai de justification systématique de ce procédé allant jusqu’à la remise en question des méthodes habituelles, vient donc à son heure" ("it must be admitted that cohort analysis has been established and that it is widely used; the time is ripe now for an attempt of systematic justification of the method going so far as to put a question mark over all the usual methods"). And, indeed, you push the question as far as possible, when trying to formally connect cohort and period rates, to formalise the way that changes in cohort behaviour change the period fertility levels: the nowadays well known "translation model". I think it is good to remember, in the context of a PAA meeting, that your main article on the topic, "The Process of Demographic Translation" was published, in 1964, in the first volume of Demography. But I’d also like to mention that, as you know, the cohort approach has been very prized among French demographers and there is no doubt that, for this reason, you were, for a long time, their foremost demographic analyst in the uS. Can we say that you appeared as the most French of American demographers? But maybe that understates your contribution. What is true is that, among many other things, you gave a very good solution to a difficult question that French demographers had not yet solved! And still now, you are the father of a method that no serious demographic textbook can afford to overlook.


ryder6.jpg (65374 bytes)It is probably not necessary to say more about the fertility of your scientific activity to definitely consider it as at the top. Yes, one thing more. Very recently, Ron Lee let me in on a secret: "not very long ago, if you were talking to Norm, and mentioned any topic of research on which you might be working, he would pull a paper out of his file cabinet on that topic that he had written years ago, but never published. Many people have told of this experience". Fortunate colleagues who could benefit from your unpublished ideas. How poor are people like me who never got such good luck! So, not only you were very productive publishing your own works but also you probably practised an uncontrolled fertility through those of many colleagues…


More seriously, and this is a second reason for receiving the IUSSP medal, you were not only a very gifted researcher (and finder) but you also devoted great energy to communicating your knowledge to the young generations, to popularise your demographic findings among policy makers as well as to build bridges between colleagues and between disciplines.


ryder7.jpg (66880 bytes)You gave your first lectures at the university of Toronto, Canada, before migrating. But since 1956, you taught in Madison at the university of Wisconsin where you became full professor in 1961 and, almost at the same time, the founder of the Center for Demography and Ecology. You did a wonderful job there. Nobody in Madison forgot you! And the whole university was so grateful that, ten years ago, in 1989, it created a Norman B Ryder Professorship in Sociology and named Larry Bumpass as the first holder of the chair. But, since 1971, your headquarters have been at Princeton university, where you were Professor for almost twenty years and where you have been, since 1989, Professor Emeritus. How many students have you taught? I cannot say; but for sure, you made a lasting impression on cohorts and cohorts of demographers.


But you were also very active in the field of scientific associations. First, you were elected member of the IUSSP as early as 1951 and you participated a lot in all the scientific activities of the union, delivering papers to many seminars, meetings and conferences. You even chaired, in 1968-69, the uS National Committee of the IUSSP. Of course, you also contributed actively to the Population Association of America: several times member of the Board of Directors (1962-66, 1968-70 and 1971-74) and you were its President in 1972-1973. But you also played a prominent role among several other American associations, outside the narrow field of population studies. To be brief, I will just say that in 1965-69 you were a member of the Council and of the Executive Committee of the American Sociological Association, while you were the Editor of the American Sociological Review, then, in 1969-70, you became Chairman of the Population Section of the ASA. A couple of years later, in 1974-75, you took the charge of President of the Sociological Research Association of which you had been elected member in 1967. At the same time, you served on the Advisory Committee on Social Policy of the American Statistical Association (1973-75).


ryder8.jpg (81663 bytes)Beyond all these scientific associations, you also used your science and knowledge to advise policy makers at different levels. Both in the uS and Canada you were solicited many times for consultancies on many aspects of population questions. In 1968-71, you took part in a Committee of the National Academy of Science dealing with the "rationale for population policies in developing countries". Then, in 1971-1973, you were a member of the panel on Youth of the President’s Science Advisory Committee; simultaneously, you were a member of the Advisory Committee on Population and Family Planning of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, as well as a Special Consultant of the uS Commission on Population Growth and the American Future. How could you manage so many things at the same time? It is really impressive! Finally, on the Canadian side, you were, for a long time and until very recently, a key advisor for Demographic Statistics and Studies at Statistics Canada.



Recognising all these merits, many institutions have already honoured you in various ways. As early as 1967 you got the sesquicentennial medal of the university of Michigan. Ten years later (1977), you were elected fellow by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and almost at the same time (1978), by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Ten years later, in 1987, you got the Irene Taeuber Award for outstanding accomplishments in demographic research. 

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Then, the time for university honoraria was coming: in 1989, you got the Honorary Doctorate of Demographic Sciences of the Vrije universiteit Brussel; in 1991 the Distinguished Alumni Award in the Sciences of McMaster university; and finally, during the XXIInd IUSSP General Conference, you were made Docteur Honoris Causa de l’université de Montréal.


Obviously, we are a little bit late with the modest IUSSP award. However, I would like to say to you that the whole Council chose your name not only unanimously but with great enthusiasm and I warmly hope that you will accept the medal as a symbol of all IUSSP’s recognition of your brilliant career, your prominent scientific work, and your major role in the development of population studies. 



Jacques Vallin
Vice-Président de l’UIESP