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The State and the Stork: The Population Debate and Policy Making in US History

  • Won the Pacific Coast Branch of the AHA: AHA-Pacific Coast Branch Book Award

By: Derek S Hoff(Author)

University of Chicago Press

Hardback | Nov 2012 | #212536 | ISBN-13: 9780226347622
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NHBS Price: £34.50 $46/€39 approx

About this book

From the colonial era to the present, the ever-shifting debate about America's almost uninterrupted population growth has exerted a profound influence on the evolution of politics, public policy, and economic thinking in the United States. In a remarkable shift since the 1970s, Americans have celebrated the economic virtues of population growth – but as one of the only wealthy countries experiencing significant growth in the twenty-first century, the United States now finds itself at a crossroads with policymakers unwilling or unable to address the future. From the founders' fears that crowded cities would produce corruption, luxury, and vice to the zero population growth movement of the late 1960s and the continuing emergence of the aging crisis, the debate has often been about much more than race or resource exhaustion.

In The State and the Stork, Derek S. Hoff draws on his extraordinary knowledge of the intersections of population debates and economics throughout American history to explain the many surprising ways that population ideas and anxieties have provoked a wide range of policies, connecting demographic debates and economics to unexpected policies and political developments – including the recent conservative revival. At once a fascinating history and a revelatory look at the national conversation, The State and the Stork could not be timelier.

“After decades of failed efforts by the scientific community to alert the public to the environmental dangers of population growth and overpopulation, a first-rate historian has finally detailed both the arguments and their policy implications. Derek S. Hoff has taken a comprehensive look at the debates in the United States between those who realize as Malthus did that the growing population will sooner or later outstrip Earth's capacity to support people and those who imagine that there are no limits to that growth. Everyone interested in population should read The State and the Stork. This is an incredibly timely book.”
- Paul R. Ehrlich, Author of The Population Bomb and The Dominant Animal
“Derek Hoff has taken an important, complicated topic and traced it over the whole of American history. The research on display here is striking in its breadth and depth, Hoff’s insights are penetrating, and his interpretation is original. The State and the Stork is a solid piece of scholarship.”
- Robert Collins, University of Missouri

The State and the Stork takes up an enduring but often ignored question in modern American political history. How precisely have debates concerning the dynamics of population expansion affected the development of modern public policy and statecraft in the American experience? Strangely enough, there has been little in the way of recent scholarship that directly addresses this query – nor has there been a genuine effort to construct a narrative that spans the entirety of American history and squarely confronts it. It is this gap in the literature that Derek S. Hoff fills in a significant and original fashion.”
- Michael A. Bernstein, Tulane University

“In his excellent book The State and the Stork, Derek Hoff examines the ways in which economists, demographers, social scientists and politicians in the US have traced patterns in Malthus' domain. Hoff's is an elegant clarion call to demographic arms, and [...] an assured guide through two centuries of Malthusian wrangling.”
- Robert J. Mayhew,  Times Higher Education



Chapter 1. Foundations
Chapter 2. The Birth of the Modern Population Debate
Chapter 3. Population Depressed
Chapter 4. Population Unbound
Chapter 5. Managing the Great Society’s Population Growth
Chapter 6. The New Environmental State and the Zero Population Growth Movement
Chapter 7. Defusing the Population Bomb
Chapter 8. Population Aged


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Derek S. Hoff is associate professor of history at Kansas State University.

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