Demography Overview

Coordinator: Sonalde Desai  |  (301) 405-6312  |  sdesai@umd.edu

Demography, or the study of population, has been an area of graduate study within the University of Maryland’s Department of Sociology for many years. The focus has been on social demography—that is, the study of social factors that are associated with population dynamics—though also with a grounding in the traditional components of demography: fertility, migration and mortality. We study why people have the number of children they have, migrate when they do, and die when they do-and the consequences of such behaviors. We also study how these demographic processes relate to family dynamics (such as marital formation and dissolution) and labor force activity. Group differences in population outcomes-for example, differences by gender, ethnicity, and race-are important considerations in this field of study. Our perspective is both national (United States) and international, including developing countries.

Faculty Interests

Sociology faculty active in the demography program include Christine Bachrach, Feinian Chen, Philip Cohen, Monica Das Gupta, Sonalde Desai, Joan Kahn, Meredith Kleykamp, Kris Marsh, Julie Park, Michael Rendall, Liana Sayer, Reeve Vanneman, Andres Villareal and Wei-hsin Yu. Recent and ongoing faculty research projects that focus on the United States include such topics as the relationship between women’s employment and fertility; time use and the care of children; birth timing, marital timing, and education-family interrelationships; health disparities over the life course; the changing economic roles of men and women,  the causes of child poverty, and the relationship between household structure and labor supply; poverty and inequality, and racial and ethnic residential segregation. Research on developing countries includes such topics as intra-household resource allocation, economic development, gender differences in literacy in India, and the determinants of maternal and child health in India and China. Policy issues relating to population change and work and family dynamics are also studied, covering the U.S., Europe, and developing countries.

Maryland Population Research Center

Many of the Department’s demography faculty are also affiliated with the Maryland Population Research Center. This multidisciplinary center draws affiliated faculty with interests in population issues from across the social sciences including Sandra Hofferth (Family Studies), Mark Duggan, Judith Hellerstein, Ginger Zin (Economics),  Odis Johnson, Sangeetha Madhavan (African American Studies), Michael Paolisso (Anthropology) and Martha Geores (Geography). In addition to its regular speaker series, the center offers an interdisciplinary training program as well as the new Certificate in Population Studies. Interested students are encouraged to learn more about the center’s activities and by visiting its website: www.popcenter.umd.edu.

Graduate Student Research Opportunities and Employment

There is considerable collaboration of faculty with students on research papers, and students are encouraged to present papers at professional meetings and submit these papers for publication. Demography students have many opportunities to obtain research training experience. Many demography faculty, both in sociology as well as at the Maryland Population Research Center, have externally funded research projects, which often support graduate student research assistants.

Demography students are encouraged to present at conferences like the Annual Meetings of Population Association of America and those of American Sociological Association and to submit papers to professional journals. Papers emerging from second year papers, dissertations as well as research apprenticeship have been published in a wide range of journals including Demography, Social Science and Medicine and Gender and Society.