Sociologist Scores A Hit With Demography Handbook

As an undergraduate at USF in the early 1960s, Dudley Poston ’63 bounced between no less than four majors before finding inspiration in the university’s recently established sociology department.

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A course on demography, taught by Professor Ralph Lane, would set him on course to become one of the country’s best known population experts.

“By all means, without Dr. Ralph Lane, as well as Fr. Eugene Schallert, I would not be where I am today, at a major research university teaching and conducting research in sociology and demography,” Poston said.

The Texas A&M University professor recently published the first new demography handbook since 1959, a 900-page tome that has been called the Harry Potter of demography.

“Since 1970, I’ve written or edited more than a dozen books,” Poston said, “but none of them even approached the success of this one. One of the reviewers claimed that it will become the new bible of demography.” 

The voluminous Handbook of Population, edited by Poston and Michael Micklin, includes information from the 2000 censuses of many countries. “Each chapter was written by a demographer expert in the field being discussed, and authors were based all over the world,” Poston said.

Topics include biological demography, which is the study of the extent to which biology influences fertility and mortality; anthropological demography; applied demography, which can assist marketing efforts based on population trends; age and sex patterns of populations, which are influenced by both international and internal migrations; and gender demography, which deals with gender-based demographic differences and similarities, one of many topics absent from the 1959 book. 

Poston will further make his mark on the field with his latest project: the forthcoming Same-Sex Partners: The Demography of Sexual Orientation, the first such quantitative study of homosexuality to be produced.

“The basic data for this book come from a question on the 2000 U.S. census which allowed respondents to indicate whether they lived with an unmarried partner of the same sex,” Poston said. “The responses allowed us to identify partnered gay men and lesbians in all U.S. metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. An analysis of where such couples live reveals, for example, that residential areas in most U.S. cities are segregated by sexual orientation, especially when it comes to gay men. Lesbian couples are less segregated from heterosexual couples, probably because they are more likely than gay men to have children and thus want to live in neighborhoods with the same kinds of amenities as married heterosexual families.”

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