Ansley Coale

Honoring Ansley J. Coale

Ansley J. Coale spent his entire professional career at Princeton University, where he received his B.A (1939)., M.A. (1941). and Ph.D. (1947) and served on the faculty for nearly 40 years, retiring as the William Church Osborne Professor of Economics and Public Affairs in 1986.  He died on November 5, 2002 at the age of 85 and is fondly remembered by the many students he trained and generations of colleagues and collaborators.

In the course of his long career, Coale published more than 125 books and articles on a wide variety of demographic topics.  His first major book was Population Growth and Economic Development in Low-Income Countries (1958), coauthored with Edgar Hoover, which was the first systematic study to suggest that slowing population growth could enhance economic development in poor countries.   Other notable works include New Estimates of Fertility and Population in the United States (1963), co-written with Melvin Zelnik, Regional Model Life Tables and Stable Populations (1966), co-written with Paul Demeny, and Human Fertility in Russia Since the Nineteenth Century (1979) with Barbara A. Anderson and Erna Harm.

Perhaps his most influential book was The Growth and Structure of Human Populations (1972), which established the fundamentals of stable population theory and provided the conceptual basis for numerous indirect estimation techniques on which demographers relied before the era of national demographic surveys.   He was also the intellectual architect of the European Fertility Project, which eventually resulted in the publication of nine books that summarized changes in marriage and childbearing patterns over a century in 700 provinces in Europe.  The project provided the first comprehensive empirical description of the West’s demographic transition and culminated in the publication of The Decline of Fertility in Europe (1986), coauthored with Susan Watkins.

Coale’s work was conducted through Princeton’s Office of Population Research, founded by his mentor Frank Notestein in 1936 and the nation’s oldest demographic research center.  Coale succeeded Notestein as the OPR’s second director and served from 1959 to 1975.  Following his retirement, OPR honored him by naming its demographic research library “The Ansley J. Coale Population Research Collection.”  In recognition of his many contributions to demography he was also elected President of the Population Association of America in 1967 and served as President of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population from 1977 to 1981.  Coale’s influence on the field continues through the many students he trained and mentored, including five who went on to become Presidents of the Population Association of America.

Career Highlights

Director of Princeton’s Office of Population Research 1959-1975
President of the Population Association of America 1967-68
President of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population 1977-1981
Architect of the European Fertility Project (1963-1986)

List of Donors

Neil G. Bennett
Thomas Burch
Michael S. Teitelbaum
Jacqueline Darroch
Paul Demeny
Noreen Goldman
John Knodel
Kathryn Kost
Massimo Livi-Bacci
Linda Martin
Douglas Massey
Jane Menken
OPR Princeton
Laura Rudkin
Naomi Rutenberg
David Shapiro
Michael Stoto
Marta Tienda
James Trussell
S. Heidi Ullmann
Jun Zhu