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Demographic Change in Southeast Asia: Recent Histories and Future Directions

Demographic Change
Lindy Williams and Michael Philip Guest, eds.
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During the last half century, Southeast Asia has undergone tremendous social, political, and economic change. This volume chronicles the extensive demographic transformations that have accompanied those changes, documenting how public health and other policy interventions contributed to rapid population growth, and how new patterns of settlement and migration ensued. More recently, changing opportunities for young adults have revolutionized marriage and fertility choices and raised concerns about population aging. 

The authors consider the recent demographic histories of the region alongside government policies intended to manage population growth rates; improve access to education, employment, and health services; influence levels of internal and international migration; and address environmental concerns. This groundbreaking study of postcolonial Southeast Asia addresses many of the contemporary demographic challenges facing the citizens and governments of the increasingly mobile, and “globalized” region of Southeast Asia. 


Lindy Williams is a professor and director of graduate studies in the department of Development Sociology at Cornell University, where she is a member of the graduate fields of Asian Studies and International Development. Her research interests include family sociology and demography, and the majority of her work is focused geographically on Southeast Asia. Her most recent research examines the impact of overseas labor migration of adults from the Philippines on the children they leave behind. 

Michael Philip Guest is Chief of the Demographic Analysis Branch in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division at the United Nations. A demographer whose research interests include migration and fertility, he has taught as a professor at the Institute for Population and Social Research of Mahidol University in Bangkok and acted as program associate and country representative in the Population Council’s Bangkok office. In addition, he has coordinated a range of program activities dealing with reproductive health, interventions research, expansion of contraceptive choice, gender, and development research. 


Sabrina Bonaparte, University of Washington-Seattle; Sara Curran, University of Washington-Seattle; Noah Derman, deputy director at Development in Gardening (Atlanta, GA); Hongyun Fu, Population Services International (China); Bina Gubhaju, National University of Singapore; Charles Hirschman, University of Washington-Seattle; Graeme Hugo, University of Adelaide; Terence Hull, Australian National University; Gavin Jones, Australian National University and National University of Singapore; Ghazy Mujahid, York Centre for Asian Research (Canada) and former UN population policy advisor; and Mark J. VanLandingham, Tulane University


Taken together, the articles in this excellent and much needed collection provide a nuanced analysis of the causes and consequences of population change in Southeast Asia. The contributors are well known and highly regarded experts and their contributions are uniformly first rate. Among other strengths, the volume describes the demographic context for Southeast Asia economic growth and increasing importance in the global community.—Peter J. Donaldson, president of the Population Council and former president/CEO of the Population Reference Bureau 

Southeast Asia is a region on the rise: eleven countries of varied scales and endowments acting increasingly in unison on the international stage. These essays add enormously to our understanding of the populations involved and how they are changing. It is not just the analysis of specific issues regarding trends in fertility, mortality, population aging, migration, ethnic composition, environmental impacts, and so forth, which is so valuable, but also the way these essays, when read together, impress upon us how all these issues are interrelated and configured in a way that is unique to the region. To borrow from the motto of Southeast Asia’s largest country, there is here a “unity in diversity” that accounts for much of the region’s expanding vitality and charm. To anyone who wants to understand current demographic trends in Southeast Asia and how they are likely to affect the region’s future prosperity and geopolitical role, I highly recommend this book.—Professor Adrian Hayes, Australian National University and chair, Scientific Panel on Climate Change, International Union for the Scientific Study of Population

What the reviewers are saying …

This edited volume on the demography of Southeast Asia presents a thorough, systematic overview of demographic change across the region in a very accessible manner that assumes no prior specialist knowledge of this area of the world … In summary, this volume, which brings together current analysis by some of the most knowledgeable and experienced scholars of demographic change in Southeast Asia, is an exceptionally informative and useful book for anyone seeking to understand the critical social processes that are shaping this world region.—Michael Leaf, Pacific Affairs

By focusing on population issues and how these relate to economic and social development of the region, the editors of and contributors to this volume have been able to find commonalities in patterns of population growth, to highlight significant deviations and to underscore prospects for the future. Overall, the book is a good contribution to the social sciences and to our understanding of Southeast Asia in all its complexity.—Elma Laguna, Sojourn

[F]or those who are interested in the post-war demographic transition in Southeast Asia, this book is a welcome addition.—Peter Boomgaard, Bijdragen


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