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  1. 1

    Forty years of population statistics at the United Nations.

    United Nations. Department of International Economic and Social Affairs. Statistical Office


    The Statistical and Population Commissions perform the work of the United Nations (UN) Secretariat in population statistics. Their Demographic Yearbook has come to serve an ever wider variety of users. Most data comes from an annual questionnaire sent to national statistical services in >200 contries or areas worldwide. Data quality and reliability improved significantly with each decennial round of population censuses. Standardized definitions and classification methods; detailed footnoting; and the complementation of missing or incomplete data from official national sources promote their usefulness and international comparability. From 1955-74, demographic and related economic and social statistics were integrated by attempts, through technical cooperation, to improve national statistical services, and by methodological work, including the publication of handbooks, manuals, and technical reports. The Statistical Office, under Statistical Commission guidance, promoted sampling technics for obtaining demographic and related information and for evaluating census and civil registration systems. The UN also promoted efforts to improve civil registration and vital events data accuracy. Those efforts included revising recommendations and handbooks and preparing the World Program for the Improvement of Vital Statistics. Every decade, the UN has issued principles and recommendations for population and housing censuses and contributed to the improvement of national efforts, including the recent development of regional variants of the World Population and Housing Censuses recommendations; emphasizing developing country needs; and promoting electronic data processing worldwide. 193 countries representing 95% of the world's population conducted a census between 1975-84. The UN launched the National Household Survey Capability Program in the late 1970s, to provide data on population and related demographic characteristics linked with other social and economic variables.
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  2. 2

    Fertility and family planning.

    Johnson-Acsadi G


    40 years ago, one of the 1st tasks of the United Nations (UN) Population Division was a series of pilot studies demonstrating how governments could improve knowledge of demographic levels and trends using inadequate statistics: India, the Sudan, the Philippines, and Brazil demonstrated the application of survey research to fertility analysis. Similar studies illustrated the policy-making value of census data. William Brass suggested that maternity histories be used to assess fertility change. The Division participated in the 1st national family planning (FP) programs in India, and then helped develop a standard questionnaire to serve as the basis for internationally comparable knowledge, attitude, and practice surveys and sought to promote cross-national comparative research on fertility and FP. It also developed technics for estimating fertility in the absence of adequate birth statistics, including the reverse-survival method and ways of using stable population models. Model-based estimates of fertility have been made from World Fertility Survey data. The Division has provided data and studies to measure FP program success and to serve in improving service and acceptance rates, participating in evaluations of the administration of its national FP programs in India and Pakistan, and in research on cost/benefit and cost-effectiveness calculations for fertility reduction programs. A basic component was the measurement of the impact of FP programs on fertility: the Division carried out studies to evaluate alternative measurement methods, and prepared a manual. As fertility data quality improved, the Division prepared a review of knowledge on determinants of fertility, and hypothesized that a threshold must be crossed before development leads to fertility decline. The Division now produces periodic overviews of fertility conditions and trends, and studies on world levels and condtions of fertility, and has made findings on breast feeding effects, "unmet" FP needs, and the role of type of parental union, marital disruption, and education and occupation.
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  3. 3

    Demographic estimates and projections.

    El-Badry MA; Kono S


    The periodic assessment of global population growth from the past to the future has been one of the UN's most important contributions to member states and many other users. Available data and applicable analysis and projection methods were very limited in 1947, when the 1st global population estimates and projections were attempted. The 1st contributions of the Commission were manuals for these functions. Throughout the 1950s, 4 regional reports on Central and South America; Southeast Asia; and Asia and the far East were published. UN studies during this period tended to group regions by their position on a continuum of the demographic transition. Rough but alarming projections of population growth appeared. Projection technics were refined and standardized in the 1960s, and the demand grew for more specialized technics, e.g. dealing with urban/rural populations; the labor force; and other elements. The availability of computer technology at the end of the decade multiplied the projection capabilities, and the total population projections for the future were larger than ever. The 1970s projections, based on the more accurate and widely covered baseline data which had become available in developing countries, were also aided by more powerful and innovative indirect estimation technics; better software, and computers with larger capacities. By 1982, only a few countries were left with a total lack of data. A revision of estimates and projections is now undertaken biennially, incorporating the latest available data, utilizing advanced analytical methods and computer technology. Methodological manuals have been produced as the by-product of the revisions. UN demographic estimates and projections could be further improved by injection of a probabilistic element and the inclusion of economic factors. Roles for the future include maintenance of regional and interregional comparability of assumptions.
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