150 years of official population statistics in Italy

Roberto Impicciatore, Rosella Rettaroli


The paper contains an overview of the different stages of Italian history underlying the relations between official population statistics and the changes in demographic behaviour since 1861. A crucial point is the role played by institutional organisations and their specific choices in terms of the production of official statistics. The analysis is divided into five different historical periods: from Italian unification to the First World War; the period between the two wars, from World War II to the Sixties; the Seventies; and the last thirty years. In the first decades after unification, the institutional structure led to the enhancement of “political arithmetic” as a tool for the administration of the new state. This perspective was strengthened between the two World Wars, the period of Fascism. After World War II, the availability of institutional data focused mainly on economic dynamics. The subsequent major transformations in the field of family and fertility behaviour pushed for further developments in population studies. Starting in the Seventies, methodological and scientific progress led to a rethinking of the creation of data. Following the line traced by the paradigm shift (from macro to micro), a new phase of data collection started with the implementation of national socio-demographic sample surveys. In the last 30 years, behavioural changes have been further accelerated. However, at the same time, advances in scientific research have led to new explanatory approaches and data collection methods.

Roberto IMPICCIATORE, Resercher, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods, Milan University, Milan, Italy. E-mail:

Rosella RETTAROLI, Professor of Demography, Department of Statistical Sciences, Bologna University, Bologna, Italy. E-mail:


population statistics, official statistics

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ISSN: 2035-5556

Reg. Tribunale di Roma n. 3321/54