Ecuador took its first census in 1950, and it appears to have the eighth fastest-growing population among the republics of Latin America (1960), which is itself the fastest-growing population area of the world. Both these facts give particular significance to any examination of demographic factors that affect and are at once affected by the conditions of Ecuadorean life today. This short monograph is “an attempt to analyze the main characteristics of the population of Ecuador,” based on the 1950 Census and certain 1955 estimates. It treats the number and distribution of the population, residence, race, age, sex, marital status, educational status, rate of reproduction, and mortality in as many separate, very short chapters and illustrates some of the important distributions with welldrawn maps and diagrams.
The attempt is of course a laudable one, but it cannot be said to be a successful one, or even a very useful one, except insofar as parts of it represent a summary and therefore, a kind of elementary introduction, made at a fairly low analytical level, to the 1950 Census itself. The principal demographic data on Ecuador and specific comparisons of Ecuador with the rest of Latin America, to which a consider able portion of the monograph is devoted, are all set forth much more concisely, in greater detail and in more up-to-date form, in the readily-available Statistical Abstracts of Latin America 1961, published by the Center of Latin American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles (Russell H. Fitzgibbon, Director). The main value of the monograph lies in Saunders’ presentation of data and distributions according to provinces and regions— Coast, Highlands, Oriente—from which he draws some tentative and interesting conclusions. The Coast shows a greater proportionate increase and the Highlands a greater proportionate decrease of population between 1950 and 1955; there are proportionately many more persons living in common-law marriage on the Coast than in the Highlands; Inca (or Quechua, the Indian language) is spoken by an impressively high percentage of people in the Oriente, by a significantly low percentage on the Coast; whooping cough, bronchitis, and measles, in that order, accounted for over a quarter (28.9 per cent) of all reported deaths in 1955. One of the conspicuous faults of this monograph is Saunders’s continuance of an almost traditional error: that of equating race with other things. Notwithstanding familiar disclaimers, the author discusses language, footwear, housing, and bedding under the heading “Race,” and, among other things, says that “race is generally associated with a given socio-economic status and cultural background” (p. 16)—an association for which, as every first-year anthropology student and any observant traveler in Ecuador is likely to know, there is no good evidence at all.