This book is the outgrowth of a conference held at the University of Wisconsin in mid-1968. The gathering, devoted to the theme “Population Problems and Development in Latin America,” was a pioneer effort to apply a multi-disciplinary approach to the analysis of this particular aspect of Latin America’s quest for societal change.

Population Policies and Growth in Latin America, published in 1971, contains an updated version of some of the papers delivered at the 1968 conference plus a number of previously published essays which were included in this volume, according to its editor, “to place Latin America in the appropriate historical and world wide context” (p. ix). The focus in the book, however, remains on Latin America and on the interactions between socio-economic development and population growth.

The volume is comprised of fourteen papers organized into an introduction and four major sections. In the introductory piece, the editor attempts to outline the dimensions of Latin America’s population problem and to indicate a consistency supposedly woven throughout the remainder of the papers.

Section I is designed to provide the reader with a general frame of reference; hence it offers articles both on early Western European demographic history and the alleged impact of Catholicism upon natality levels, as well as a reissuing of the “classic” Kingsley Davis-Bernard Berelson debate on the effectiveness of family planning to solve the world’s population problem.

Section II narrows the focus to Latin American population policies. It comprises a discussion of the controversial United States involvement in family planning activities throughout the area, a pioneer attempt to build a regional model of population policy formation, and a provocative essay on the allegedly close relationship between responsible parenthood and responsible citizenship which allows promotion of the latter through large-scale adult education programs oriented toward the former.

In Sections III and IV, six scholars, most of them economists, analyze the largely unintended demographic consequences—such as high rates of unemployment and underemployment—of policies adopted throughout Latin America for purposes associated with modernization and socio-economic development. Section III discusses the “hidden” demographic implications of current labor and social welfare legislation and practice, while Section IV reviews the prevalent situation in the high-fertility agrarian section of Latin America regarding food supply and absorption of labor by agriculture.

Unfortunately, several weaknesses limit the value of this volume. The editor’s attempt to bring to the fore in the introduction the coherence between the various parts of the book is not altogether successful. Some of the essays do not seem to fit perfectly into its fabric. Several of them, moreover, were somewhat dated by the time of publication and others were too well-known to justify inclusion in still another book.

Despite these and other flaws, this work, because of its multidisciplinary approach, represents a welcome contribution to the knowledge in its area. Some of its essays are also highly satisfactory. Vivian Epstein’s study, for instance, represents a constructive effort to analyze population policy formation in Latin America, and Ivan Illich’s reprinted piece is bold and thought-provoking. All in all, the plusses in David Chaplin’s reader easily exceed the minuses.