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The State and the Stork

The Population Debate and Policy Making in US History

From the colonial era to the present, the ever-shifting debate about America’s prodigious population growth has exerted a profound influence on the evolution of politics, public policy, and economic thinking in the United States. In a remarkable shift since the late 1960s, Americans of all political stripes have come to celebrate the economic virtues of population growth. As one of the only wealthy countries experiencing significant population growth in the twenty-first century, the United States now finds itself at a demographic crossroads, but policymakers seem unwilling or unable to address the myriad economic and environmental questions surrounding this growth.

From the founders’ fears that crowded cities would produce corruption, luxury, and vice to the zero population growth movement of the late 1960s to today’s widespread fears of an aging crisis as the Baby Boomers retire, the American population debate has always concerned much more than racial composition or resource exhaustion, the aspects of the debate usually emphasized by historians. In The State and the Stork, Derek Hoff draws on his extraordinary knowledge of the intersections between population and economic debates throughout American history to explain the many surprising ways that population anxieties have provoked unexpected policies and political developments—including the recent conservative revival. At once a fascinating history and a revelatory look at the deep origins of a crucial national conversation, The State and the Stork could not be timelier.

392 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2012

Economics and Business: Economics--History

History: American History

Political Science: Public Policy


"Hoff’s thoughtful historical analysis of how the interplay between our dynamic economy and population has been imagined, debated, and enacted in policy provides a powerful model of how to understand the complex array of issues that will shape the political economy of population in the future."

American Historical Review

“In his excellent book The State and the Stork, Derek Hoff examines the ways in which economists, demographers, social scientists and politicians in the US have traced patterns in Malthus’ domain. Hoff’s is an elegant clarion call to demographic arms, and . . . an assured guide through two centuries of Malthusian wrangling.”

Robert J. Mayhew | Times Higher Education

The State and the Stork takes up an enduring but often ignored question in modern American political history. How precisely have debates concerning the dynamics of population expansion affected the development of modern public policy and statecraft in the American experience? Strangely enough, there has been little in the way of recent scholarship that directly addresses this query—nor has there been a genuine effort to construct a narrative that spans the entirety of American history and squarely confronts it. It is this gap in the literature that Derek S. Hoff fills in a significant and original fashion.”

Michael A. Bernstein | Tulane University

“After decades of failed efforts by the scientific community to alert the public to the environmental dangers of population growth and overpopulation, a first-rate historian has finally detailed both the arguments and their policy implications. Derek S. Hoff has taken a comprehensive look at the debates in the United States between those who realize as Malthus did that the growing population will sooner or later outstrip Earth’s capacity to support people and those who imagine that there are no limits to that growth. Everyone interested in population should read The State and the Stork. This is an incredibly timely book.”

Paul R. Ehrlich | Author of The Population Bomb and The Dominant Animal

“Derek Hoff has taken an important, complicated topic and traced it over the whole of American history. The research on display here is striking in its breadth and depth, Hoff’s insights are penetrating, and his interpretation is original. The State and the Stork is a solid piece of scholarship.”

Robert Collins | University of Missouri

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Foundations
Chapter 2. The Birth of the Modern Population Debate
Chapter 3. Population Depressed
Chapter 4. Population Unbound
Chapter 5. Managing the Great Society’s Population Growth
Chapter 6. The New Environmental State and the Zero Population Growth Movement
Chapter 7. Defusing the Population Bomb
Chapter 8. Population Aged



Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association: Pacific Coast Branch Book Award

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