Population Research and Policy Review 19: 199–232, 2000.
© 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The importance of international demographic research
for the United States
RAND, Santa Monica, California, USA
Abstract. International demographic research has provided many beneﬁts for the U.S. This
paper identiﬁes ﬁve main reasons for these beneﬁts. First, cross-national research provides
unique policy insights that help the U.S. to develop more effective programs and policies to
address pressing and persistent domestic challenges. Second, it helps the U.S. to understand
and address problems and issues in many countries or regions of the world that are of particular
relevance to the U.S. because of their strategic or commercial importance to us. Third, it helps
the U.S. to address problems and issues that are global in nature and require international
policy responses. Fourth, it helps the U.S. to provide humanitarian aid to poor countries more
effectively and efﬁciently. Finally, it contributes to the advancement of science, which in turn
stimulates and enriches research focusing on the U.S.
Keywords: Cross-national research, Policy problems
Demographic research in the U.S. examines trends and patterns in fertility,
mortality, marriage, migration, retirement, and health status, as well as the
factors that determine and are affected by these behaviors and outcomes.
Research focusing on the U.S. yields vital information for policymaking and
the public. Demographers in the U.S. also devote considerable effort to de-
scribing and understanding demographic behavior in other parts of the world.
International demographic research beneﬁts the U.S. by informing public
policy choices and by expanding basic scientiﬁc knowledge. It also aids cit-
izens of other countries of the world. The beneﬁts of this research take many
different forms, which are often not widely recognized. The purpose of this
paper is to identify how and why international demographic research serves
U.S. interests and to document the contributions it provides by drawing on a
number of speciﬁc examples and illustrations. This paper should be of interest
to policymakers who focus on domestic or international issues, funders at
government agencies and foundations, and demographers, especially those
engaged in international research. These researchers are frequently asked to
explain the value, to the U.S., of their overseas studies. The arguments and