Council Commentary

Population Council Mourns Passing of Influential Demographer Jack Caldwell

The Population Council mourns the passing of John C. (Jack) Caldwell (1928–2016), a former Council staff member and Trustee, and one of the most influential demographers of his time. Caldwell died peacefully on Saturday, March 12, 2016 at the age of 87 in his native Australia.

A prolific researcher, Caldwell was the author or co-author of many highly cited works in the areas of demographic and health transition, including 25 books and over 200 articles and book chapters. (Many of his articles appeared in the Council’s scholarly journals, Population and Development Review and Studies in Family Planning). His fieldwork pioneered the approach known as micro-demography, combining anthropological and survey research—initially in Ghana and Nigeria (partly under Council auspices), and later in South Asia. This experience was the basis for his significant contributions to population theory, particularly on the effect of changing intergenerational economic transfers (“wealth flows”) within the family on fertility decline. Other notable contributions include his identification of “routes to low mortality” open to developing countries and the significance of sexual networks during the height of the HIV and AIDS epidemic. 

From 1968 to his retirement, Caldwell was a professor of demography at the Australian National University, Canberra.  He also served as a Council Trustee and president of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population from 1994 to 1998. His various contributions to the field garnered him several awards, including the U.N. Population Award (2004) and Officer of the Order of Australia (1994).

Caldwell shared much of his research career with his wife, anthropologist Pat Caldwell (1922–1998).