Population, Sex Ratios and Development in Greenland


  • Lawrence C. Hamilton
  • Rasmus Ole Rasmussen




Greenland, demography, population, sex ratio, migration, fertility, mortality, demographic transition


During the 20th century, Greenland society experienced a dramatic transformation from scattered settlements based on hunting, with mostly turf dwellings, to an urbanizing post-industrial economy. This transformation compressed socioeconomic development that took centuries to millennia elsewhere into a few generations. The incomplete demographic transition that accompanied this development broadly followed the classical pattern, but with distinctive variations relating to Greenland’s Arctic environment, sparse population, and historical interactions between two cultures: an indigenous Inuit majority and an influential Danish minority. One heritage from Danish colonial administration, and continued more recently under Greenland Home Rule, has been the maintenance of population statistics. Time series of demographic indicators, some going back into the 18th century, provide a uniquely detailed view of the rapid hunting-to-post-industrial transition. Changing sex ratios—an early excess of females, shifting more recently to an excess of males—reflect differential impacts of social, economic, and technological developments.