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Population statistics in the changing context: an overview over the first 150 years of Italy


  • Rosella RETTAROLI


The paper aims to provide an overview of the different stages of Italian history underlying the relations between population statistics and the changes occurring in demographic behaviour since the unification of Italy. In this sense, a crucial point is the role played by institutional organisations and their specific choices in terms of the production of official statistics. The analysis is divided into five different historical periods: from Italian unification to the First World War; the period between the two wars, from World War II to the Sixties; the Seventies; the last thirty years. In the first decades after unification, the relationship between academic and official statistics was particularly relevant. The institutional structure led to the enhancement of “political arithmetic” as a tool for the administration of the new state, with the aim of describing the essential features of the population's dynamics and resources. This perspective was strengthened between the two World Wars, a period that coincides almost entirely with Fascism. At the same time, we can observe a process of convergence between sophisticated scientific demography and the population policies implemented in the Fascist regime. After World War II, the availability of institutional data focused mainly on economic dynamics. The subsequent major transformations in the field of family and fertility behaviour (e. g. the baby boom, divorce, internal migration) pushed for further developments in population studies, although sources of data remained substantially unchanged in the last decades. Starting from the Seventies, methodological and scientific progress led to a rethinking of the creation of data. Following the line traced by the paradigm shift (from macro to micro), a new phase of data collection started with the implementation of national socio-demographic sample surveys and the access to Istat microdata. In the last thirty years, demographic changes have seen further acceleration. Italy has become a country of immigration, fertility has continued to fall and life paths have become more and more complex. At the same time, scientific research has made great strides and new explanatory approaches have been introduced in the last few years. Both these aspects require more detailed and more frequent information, an increasing demand that is not satisfied by the availability of data.

Suggested Citation

  • Roberto IMPICCIATORE & Rosella RETTAROLI, 2011. "Population statistics in the changing context: an overview over the first 150 years of Italy," Departmental Working Papers 2011-35, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
  • Handle: RePEc:mil:wpdepa:2011-35

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