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An evaluation of demographers' use of ethnographies

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A survey of papers reporting the use of ethnographies in three population journals and an examination of two case studies show that the criticisms made by anthropologists and others of demographers’ use of ethnographies are well founded. In their use of these accounts, demographers tend to present an excessively static view of social organization, to use ethnographic evidence selectively to support other findings, to be indifferent to how long ago an ethnography was produced, to take for granted the validity of the ethnographic evidence, to ignore the broader historical context in which the ethnography was produced, and to be unaware of the ways in which demographic evidence can be used at all stages of the research process The adoption of anthropologists’ suggestions for establishing the plausibility and credibility of ethnographic evidence could improve the value of the contribution made by these studies to demographic research and theory.

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