Overview of a population question

Foreword

Olivia Samuel  By the same author

      Anne Solaz  By the same author

      Laurent Toulemon  By the same author

Resume

Since 2015 the journal has been publishing an annual chronicle reviewing current knowledge about a contemporary population issue. Aimed to provide a complete synthesis, the chronicles provide both factual data and accounts of theoretical and political debates on the issue to a wide readership (researchers and other scientists, students, journalists and others). They also contextualize the issue historically for a better understanding. After a critical description of information sources and measurement tools, the author or authors assess the most recent research studies of the question, presenting trends in the phenomenon together with the social and spatial disparities involved. This is followed by a discussion of some of the political, policy and/or legal implications of the current and future situation and challenges for future research.

The first Population chronicle was by Christophe Z. Guilmoto on masculinization of births (2-2015); the second by Armelle Andro and Marie Lesclingand on female genital mutiliation (2-2016). This year’s chronicle, by Dominique Tabutin and Bruno Masquelier, takes up an issue that looms large in demography and health policy research: mortality inequalities and trends in low- or medium-income countries from 1990 to 2015. The general improvement in health over the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has benefited populations everywhere, but unequally by country. What is the situation today’ Medical advances and socioeconomic development have been instrumental in the spectacular rises in life expectancy, even in the world’s poorest regions, where life expectancy has now reached 61 years. A key question is whether the progress has benefited all populations equally, women and men, the very poor and the very wealthy, rural as well as urban dwellers, or whether health inequalities have instead deepened due, among other things, to the persistence of major social and economic inequalities within a great number of countries and across countries. The authors studied 109 low or medium-income countries representing 80% of the world’s population, countries in which the health transition is at various stages of advancement. Despite the lack of data and of precise measurements of health inequalities, especially for adults, the authors found sharply contrasting trends from one country to another. They stress the need to develop research and public policies that will combat inequalities in health.

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