Demography of Bengal: How much does the past explain the present?

Nahid Kamal, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

This paper examines the demographic transition in Bangladesh and West Bengal from a historical perspective. These two territories together comprised the former province of Bengal in British India. Employing the reverse survival and growth balance methods, census and registration data are used in order to construct a time series of annual rates of births and deaths for the entire twentieth century. Based on the results, it is concluded that although the east and west wings of Bengal were historically under the same provincial government, there were significant differences in their demographic rates, arising from heterogeneity in occupational structure, ecology, religion, and the extent of development efforts. These long-term historical disparities set the course of the subsequent demography, and explain the differences in the timing, pace and causes of demographic transition in present-day Bangladesh and West Bengal.

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Presented in Poster Session 3