Research Project

Job mobility, household structure, and migration in South Africa

Rebecca Wang is a Sociology PhD student researching migration in South Africa. Here she describes her fellowship year.

My primary goals during my fellowship year were to revise several manuscripts in progress, continue research collaborations with my faculty advisor, and plan my dissertation project. The valuable time the T32 fellowship provides allowed me to meet these goals while I continued to finish coursework and refine my research interests.

This academic year I worked on revising two different manuscripts related to migration in South Africa. The first paper used retrospective residential history data to examine the relationship between migration and occupational mobility. The second paper examined whether household structure shapes the way migrants maintain social ties with their origin household. Various PSTC faculty provided feedback on numerous occasions to help me strengthen my methodological approach, and I had the opportunity to present findings from these projects at PAA and ASA. I will also present related research at the 2017 International Population Conference hosted by IUSSP.

Additionally, I continued to collaborate with my PSTC advisor and committee chair, Michael White, on a NIH-funded project titled Migration, Urbanization, and Health in a Transition Setting. Being a part of this research team has given me the opportunity to broaden my network and work with PSTC postdocs and public health colleagues both at Brown and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. Some of my work involved analyzing the geographic distribution of migrant destinations to inform sampling and budgetary considerations. These experiences gave me helpful insight into the nuts and bolts of running a large-scale longitudinal survey. This project also greatly informed my thinking for my own dissertation project about circular migration in sub-Saharan Africa. Under the guidance of Michael White, and my other committee members, Zhenchao Qian and Margot Jackson, I successfully completed my dissertation proposal this year. Completing these milestones would not have been possible without support from PSTC and the T32 fellowship.

Recent conversations I’ve had with graduate students from other universities and countries have reminded me of how lucky I am to be a part of the supportive intellectual community at PSTC. The encouragement and financial support to present my research at conferences has been invaluable, and I also greatly benefit from the many PSTC faculty who regularly point me to training opportunities relevant to my interests. 

The dedicated staff, faculty, and fellow graduate students at PSTC have played a large role in guiding me through my graduate program. I hope future trainees fully engage in the collegial environment PSTC offers because the resources here go a long way in preparing graduate students to become independent researchers. 

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Wang.