Sources: The World’s Population: An Encyclopedia of Critical Issues, Crises, and Ever-Growing Countries

The World’s Population: An Encyclopedia of Critical Issues, Crises, and Ever-Growing Countries. By Fred M. Shelley. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2015. 407 pages. Acid free $89 (ISBN: 978-1-61069-506-0). Ebook available (978-1-61069-507-7), call for pricing.

The introduction to The World’s Population states that its purpose is “to address population-related questions in hopes of shedding light on relationships between population issues and other major problems of contemporary and future global concern” (xv). The preface, which provides an overview of traditional demography, presents questions: “How many people live on the earth today? How has this number of people changed in the past? Will the number of people currently living on the earth continue to rise as it has in recent decades? How many people can the earth support? Why do people move from place to place?” (xi). The preface also notes that the entries reflect “the basic questions associated with demography, including measurements of births, deaths, and changes in numbers of births and deaths historically as well as in the present day” (xii); “how many people move from place to place and the reasons underlying this movement” (xii); “how natural disasters, famines, and means of economic production affect populations” (xii); “well-known individuals who have made important contributions to the study of demography” (xii); “organizations that deal with population-related questions” (xii); individual places, including countries and large metropolitan areas or megacities; “texts of statements made by leaders of organizations and excerpts taken from the work of scholars whose research is important to the history of demographic thought” (xiii); and “links to numerous demography-related websites as well as to books and articles that provide further insight” (xiii). While all of this is undoubtedly important, it proves ambitious for one volume.

The Encyclopedia is divided into four parts: Entries, Countries, Cities, and Documents, followed by a select bibliography and an index. After each of the entries in parts 1–3 is a “see also” section as well as lists of further readings, many of which are web addresses. The entries in part 1 range from the very general, such as “Natural Resources and Population,” to the very specific, such as “The Berlin Wall.” Relevant organizations are included, as are key demographic terms. Well-known individuals in the field of demography, primarily historical, also appear. Despite the broad range of intended topics, most are covered in part 1, although some of the more complex ones just superficially. The national entries in part 2 include “all of the more than 30 countries around the world with populations of more than 40 million” (xii). They are presented in descending order of population, both in the contents as well as in the body of the text. The same is true for the thirty large metropolitan areas or megacities in part 3. While the actual content of these entries is useful, an alphabetical list somewhere in the text would have been helpful. Part 4 the documents section, contains just thirteen items, and the selection criteria are unclear. The selected bibliography, with just nineteen citations, is too brief to be particularly useful.

Comparing this publication with other population encyclopedias proves challenging because this volume spans such a variety of disciplines: demography, geography, health policy, history, etc. Demeny and McNicoll’s Encyclopedia of Population (Macmillan, 2003), for example, is narrower in scope yet the entries have more depth. Given its broad range and concise entries The World’s Population: An Encyclopedia of Critical Issues, Crises, and Ever-Growing Countries is recommended for secondary school collections, colleges serving undergraduates, and public libraries.—Joann E. Donatiello, Population Research Librarian, Donald E. Stokes Library, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey


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