CDE Working Paper 2012-07

A place for conceptual clarity in spatial demography

Katherine J. Curtis and David López-Carr


Scholarly interests and efforts in space continue to gain momentum in the multi-disciplinary field of demography. While considerable developments have been achieved on the spatial statistical front, there have been relatively fewer advances in conceptualizing space; thus leaving the field and its researchers prone to underdeveloped analytical models. In this essay, we explore space-oriented and place-oriented views within demography, their theoretical foundations, research applications, and empirical implications, to gain conceptual and analytical lucidity from which future research and debates on space and place within demography can draw. In our effort, we focus on the role and meaning of space and place in the context of migration, pursuing its theoretical roots and examples of contemporary research in sociology and geography. We suggest that conceptual ambiguity cannot be attributed to disciplinary differences, and assert that demography has a rich and multi-disciplinary foundation from which conceptual advances in spatial demography can be made.