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IUSSP Laureate 2003. Paul Demeny

On behalf of the IUSSP council, I have the great honor and pleasure to present you the IUSSP award for the year 2003.


It's a great honor for me, and, obviously, a great pleasure. I simply was very glad when you were selected by a very clear vote of the Council among an unusually large number of famous scholars nominated by members. Perhaps, it would be somewhat exaggerated here to say as politicians sometimes do in similar circumstances, that we have been friends for 30 years (or even 40 in our case), but it is true that we have known each other for long and that we have regularly met, at many events, during our own careers. And after all this time, I still have the same great esteem that I have had for you since I entered the field of demographic research, where you preceded me by about ten years. I have been impressed by your outstanding performance at each opportunity I have had to see you, to listen to you or to read your work.


Traditionally the type of speech I have to deliver now includes a brief summary of the career of the laureate. The length and the richness of yours really constrains me to be abusively brief if I want to save enough time to also briefly summarize the main reasons why we were very strongly convinced that you perfectly fit the profile of an IUSSP laureate.


Some time ago, you were born in Nyiregyhaza, in the north-east of Hungary. From there you went to Debrezen to complete High School and then to Budapest to get a BA from the University, and then, crossing Europe and the Atlantic Ocean, you went to Princeton for graduate studies, ending in 1961 with a PhD in economics. You were then able to start your brilliant career as an American demographer, universally known around the world. However, I have been told that to come to Princeton, you gave up a promising other career as a bassoonist since you had been invited to join the Debrezen orchestra. Have you any regret about it ? As a demographer I cannot complain. We would have missed you too much!


Your career of demographer started as Assistant Professor and Research Associate at the famous Office of Population Research of Princeton University, under the direction of our esteemed late colleague Ansley Coale. After 5 years, in 1966, you moved to the University of Michigan as Associate Professor at Population Studies Center where you joined the team of Ronald Freedman who was awarded the IUSSP prize last year, at the Atlanta PAA meeting. There, you got your title of Professor and moved again in 1969 to found, in Honolulu, the East-West Population Institute within the East-West Center, while you taught at the University of Hawaii.


And then we became "colleagues" (of course, you at the top and I in the field) since I was working for the Population Council in Algeria when you became, in 1973, a Vice President of that venerable institution, very representative of the active American promotion of overseas population research activities. But you were not there at an honorary post since you directed for 3 years the Demographic Division, and then, for 12 years, until 1988, the Center for Policy Studies. At that time, definitely, Paul Demeny was already a prominent figure of American demography, and, even more, of worldwide population studies. But all that was only half of the real Paul Demeny as you were became a distinguished scholar of The Population Council and founding editor of Population and Development Review.


But, let me give you, dear Paul, more specific reasons for our choice. Here again I have to be brief and to necessarily skip large parts of your so productive activities. I'll concentrate on two main reasons before ending with a more modest one but which for us is not negligible. The two main ones are so obvious that there is nothing new here for anybody: you are a great scientist and you are a great editor!


A great scientist


Undoubtedly, from your first position at the Princeton Office of Population Research, you confirmed that, when, together with Ansley Coale, you produced a book, which was soon to become one of, and perhaps even, the most popular book among demographers all around the world: the famous Regional Model Life Tables and Stable Populations. Of course nobody read the book from the first page to the eight hundred and seventy first page! But I do not know of one demographer or even one student in population studies who has never used it to solve one question or another … Yet, there were before and there will be other model life tables after yours, like the United Nations model life tables, or the Sully Ledermann tables, or the OECD ones, but until now the universally known Coale and Demeny tables are still on any researcher's work table, within arm's reach. From that moment, in spite of the fame of your distinguished co-author, your reputation was firmly established. I remember very well Alfred Sauvy confiding one of his major regrets to me. Complaining that at the end of the 19th century French Universities were not able to retain bright brains like the great economist Leon Walras, letting him to go to Switzerland, to donate his celebrity to the University of Lausanne: "how is it possible that I was not able to have Paul Demeny at INED instead of crossing the Atlantic Ocean for ever?" But, Paul, you did not cross the Atlantic Ocean for ever since you always maintained a great interest in European demography, as it is still so very obvious to those who listened to the inaugural lecture you gave last year at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, as External member, or have read the English translation, which is published in the current issue of Population and Development Review. [March 2003 issue]


Neither did you limit your interests to being a specialist of models or technical demography. According to the impressive list of "selected publications" attached to your nomination, even if it founded your fame, only a small part of your fertile scientific production was devoted to that field. Undoubtedly the main wealth of your entire work is elsewhere, somewhere at the crossing of your original background in economics, of the solid demographic training you got at Princeton, and of your wonderful inexhaustible general knowledge and erudition. Indeed, after a couple of studies properly oriented towards population economics, which led to articles like "investment allocation and population growth" or "Demographic aspects of saving, investment employment and productivity" published in the middle of the 60s, you came very soon to a much broader global approach of the links between demography, economics and policies.


It seems to me that multidisciplinary approach became yours at the eve of the 70s, when you published almost simultaneously your comments on "Zero population growth" in Population Index your article in the American Economic Review on "Population and environment in the US" and your chapter on "The economics of population control" in the National Academy book on "Rapid Population Growth: Consequences and Policy Implications". They are still only pieces of a puzzle but their concomitance indicated clearly that you were ready to produce what will probably remain the main scientific Paul Demeny's contribution to population science.


Of course, like many of the best American demographers, you produced a dozen major articles more specifically devoted to fertility and family planning, but most of your publications turn around three themes that are closely linked: "population and development", "population policies" and "globalization". If I were to be constrained to use only one key-word to characterize your work, I think that it would be "population policies", since you obviously very much like and succeed very well in discussing policy implications of all aspects of demographic trends and changes. But it would be too confining since you always consider the economic and cultural frame as a crucial one when dealing with demographic trends, which is better underlined by the expression "population and development". And, in the same way, you also have always borne in mind the worldwide challenge of population issues, even when you study national or regional cases, which explains the frequency of the word "globalization" in your beautiful writings.


One of the best examples of that constant willingness to see demographic questions in a broad view is the recent article you published on international migrations in May 2002 in the Journal of Population Research, an article the subtitle of which was "Globalization and its discontents". That general orientation was so relevant and the wording was so good that immediately after, in June 2002, the Nobel Prize Joseph Stiglitz gave exactly that title "Globalization and its discontents" to his new book. Unfortunately, my dear Paul, there is no Nobel Prize for demography and that is a great pity. Because of that you suffer a great injustice. If you surf on Google with your title "Globalization and its discontents" you will get 19,500 search results. If you do it again using that title jointly with the name Stiglitz, you will still get 9,750 search results. But, alas! If you do it with the same title and Demeny you will receive only 4 hits!


Equity is not the main characteristic of the world in which we live.


I am sorry that receiving the IUSSP Prize is so far from being consecrated Nobel Prize winner but it is also true that demography is not the only scientific field without a Nobel Prize. Mathematics also has no Nobel Prize, and I think that you know why!


Nevertheless, your numerous articles and publications on population policies, development and globalization will remain for a long time in the minds of population scientists. And I might have underlined one additional dimension: history and perspective. You often mentioned the huge consequences of past and present trends for our near and long term future. And you are perfectly right. Let me tell a joke about it. You probably know better than I do what would have happened if from the mid-18th century to the mid-20th century France had experienced fertility and mortality trends of England and vice versa: people of French origin would have reached almost 300 million while those of English origin would have stayed at about 10 million! But I probably know better than you what that means exactly today: the whole of North America including you would certainly be speaking French and I would be much more comfortable speaking to you today!


A great editor


Indeed I still have another thing to tell you. And that is that you are not only a great scientist, but also a great scientific editor, and it is the second main reason why you have been chosen by the Council. Very soon after you joined the Population Council as Vice President and concurrently to your already huge task of Director of the Demographic Division, you founded in 1975 this wonderful tool of dissemination of demographic knowledge which you, very naturally, called "Population and Development Review".


To do that, you had the support of the Population Council, which, though at first skeptical of the venture, gave it all the necessary financial backing. And they were right because success came quickly, far beyond what was expected. Very soon, that new Journal was actually opening a new field, among those already covered by the three worldwide demographic journals already existing PopulationPopulation Studies, or Demography. Not only did this new Journal very rapidly attract most of the readership of these three journals without damage to them, but it also drew the attention of a large new audience of people interested in population studies but not necessary in the same way as usual. You founded a new journal that enlarged our view on demography and that strengthened the link between demography and many other social sciences.


To tell you how much I appreciate that journal, let me confide half of a secret to you. About five years ago, I was approached by a company of headhunters hired to propose candidates for a new President of the Population Council. Of course I was sure of not fitting the profile and I told them so but I accepted to meet them. Naturally, they asked me questions. One of them was "For you, what is the most productive contribution of the Population Council and what is its weakest?". I promised you only half of the secret and I shall not tell you the weakest but for the best one, I can tell you that I answered "Population and Development Review" without any hesitation!


And I have no doubt that the success of that Journal is completely your success. Not only did you design the project but you deeply invested yourself in its management for almost 30 years now, with all your outstanding competence, your perseverance, your tenacity. Constantly you have been extremely ingenious in detecting good new authors all around the world and across disciplines and to convince them to submit papers. And last but not least, you put yourself out to feed the journal with your own contributions. If my count is right, you contributed not less than 13 articles in 27 years!


Beside PDR, you also edited many books, the most recent of which will not be the least impressive, since it is a comprehensive Encyclopaedia of Population, already promised a great success. How ashamed I am not to have been able to find the time to write the paper you invited me to produce for it! Fortunately, we will soon have another opportunity to collaborate, next month in Cortona, Italy.


You are a great scientist, you are a great editor. These would have fully qualified you for the Union laureate. But I would like to end by recalling that you also were very active in promoting population studies through your participation in many scientific organizations. In addition to your membership of the Hungarian Academy of Science already cited, let me mention that your are fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where you were a member of the Committee on population, Resources and the Environment, that you also were a member of a panel of the US National Academy of Sciences and that, in 1986, you were elected President of the PAA. Your are also a member of many other scientific associations like the American Economic Association, the International Statistical Institute, and, as a mark of your faithfulness to your European roots, the European Association for Populations Studies. Of course I am even more pleased to point out your generous contribution to IUSSP activities. You have been a member for more than 40 years and, since the sixties, you have never failed to participate in each General Conference. Quite logically, after having been a member of the Committee on Economy and Demography in the early seventies, you chaired at the end of the eighties the Committee on Policy, and finally, at the UN International Conference on Population and Development of Cairo, 1994, you honored the IUSSP series of seven Distinguished Lectures by a masterly speech, the title of which was, obviously, "Population and Development"!


For all these reasons, and many others I have no time to go into further detail here, I would like to tell you how enthusiastic the Council was in choosing your name, and I warmly hope that you will accept the medal as a symbol of the IUSSP's recognition of your brilliant career, your prominent scientific work, and your major role in the development of population studies.


Jacques Vallin
President of the IUSSP