Events and Meetings of Italian Statistical Society, Statistics and Demography: the Legacy of Corrado Gini

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From Gini’s approach to present-day demography: “tempo effects” on demographic insights (?)
Graziella Caselli

Last modified: 2015-09-04


Since the first decade of the twentieth century, Italian demography, in jointly dealing with both quantitative aspects – with the benefit of an excellent training in statistics and mathematics – and the qualitative aspects of demographic development, has sought a synthesis in this mutual tie. Corrado Gini may have been the first to fully understand the need to combine the analysis of demographic phenomena with the study of social, economic and biological factors. This new approach was called “Demografia Integrale” (Integral Demography), which much of Gini’s own work is an example of, as is that of almost all the demographers of that period, as well as those who were, directly or indirectly, his “pupils”. What is left of that approach among the “grandchildren” and “great-grandchildren”, those who arrived from the 1960s onwards? Amid all the continuities and discontinuities, has demography in the second half of the twentieth century and after kept alive Gini’s teaching, whether in its content or in its approaches? In what follows we shall try to answer the questions raised, following the main lines of the long development of demographic research from Gini to the present. In the first part of this essay we shall try to outline the main points of Gini’s demographic work in sequence, considering what is the main object of his enquiry, the research that proved so important both nationally and internationally. In the second part we shall give a broad account of Italian demography in the years following the second world war down to our own day, trying to point out the continuities and discontinuities with the past, both in relation to topics and analytic approaches, and to methodological developments. The last part, which appears as an Appendix, will deal with the history of a research project that is still relevant internationally, and that started from the idea of checking ex post the contrasting theories of Gini and Mortara on the effects of lack of selection due to a decline in infant and adolescent mortality. The Appendix will also present a collection of witnesses: one from Antonio Golini, who came to demography in the new Institute of Demography and whose first work underwent the influence of demographic topics dear to Gini; another, very short one from Marcello Natale, who was Gini’s temporary assistant for one year; and the last one from Giuseppe Leti, one of Gini’s students of Statistics in Rome.

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