Biography and History

Professor Ansley J. Coale (1917-2002) was a demographer whose work focused on nuptiality, fertility, and mortality in several countries. His first influential publication, with Edgar M. Hoover, was Population Growth and Economic Development in Low-Income Countries(1958). Coale spent his entire career as a member of the Office of Population Research (OPR) at Princeton University.

Ansley Johnson Coale was born on November 14, 1917 in Baltimore, Maryland to Nellie Ansley (Johnson) and James J. Coale, Jr. He received his Bachelors (1939), Masters (1941), and Doctoral (1947) degrees in Economics from Princeton University. He married Sarah Hamilton Campbell in 1941. The couple had two sons, Ansley J. Coale, Jr. and Robert Campbell Coale.

Coale joined the Princeton University faculty in 1947 as an Economics professor. In 1954 he began a five year tenure as Associate Director of the OPR, and served as Director from 1959 to 1975. He was also president of the Population Association of America in 1967-68 and president of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population from 1977 to 1981. He retired as Professor Emeritus in 1986.

His first major influential work was Population Growth and Economic Development in Low-Income Countries (1958), co-written with Edgar Hoover. The results, which showed that slowing population growth could enhance economic development, had a major impact on public policy and set the research agenda in this field. Other notable works include New Estimates of Fertility and Population in the United States (1963), co-written with Melvin Zelnik, and Human Fertility in Russia Since the Nineteenth Century (1979) with Barbara A. Anderson and Erna Harm.

Much of Coale's work focused on nupiality, fertility, and mortality. He was the intellectual architect of the European Fertility Project, which examined the remarkable decline in marital fertility in Europe. Initiated in 1963, the project eventually resulted in the publication of nine major books summarizing the change in childbearing over a century in the 700 provinces in Europe.

One of Coale's major projects in the 1950s was studying population change and economic development in low income countries. Two of his case studies were India and Mexico. In the 1960s he engaged in a study of European fertility. Over the course of his career Coale studied stable populations, detected and corrected bad demographic data for both the United States and less developed countries, and created demographic models. The Office of Population Research honored Coale in June 2002 by naming its demographic research library "The Ansley J. Coale Population Research Collection." Coale passed away in November 2002.

Source: From the finding aid for MC208