Research Themes

PSTC research is innovative, interdisciplinary, and characterized by a focus on social issues. Strong connections to three social science departments—Anthropology, Economics, and Sociology—and links to Education, Environmental Studies, History, Political Science, and Public Health provide rich opportunities for interdisciplinary investigation. The nature and depth of these collaborations are evident in the variety of affiliates' projects and the PSTC's five signature research themes.

Migration and Urbanization

In a world now more than half urban, and in a landscape in which the demographic transition has progressed to completion or near-completion for many populations, population mobility and (re)settlement demand increasing attention. Study of these phenomena is fundamental for understanding development, climate change, global conflict and security, political stability, health and disease, social movements, and other critical issues. PSTC researchers are among the world's leading experts in migration and urbanization.

Demographic Change and Economic Development

The process of economic development is demographically disruptive. It alters the structure and nature of relations among family members and how families are connected through social, cultural, economic, and political networks. Conversely, demographic change shapes development. Empirical population science that addresses these complexities is critical to ensure that development leads to sustained, equitable improvement in welfare, including health and wellbeing. PSTC scholarship in this area is distinctive in its disciplinary and geographic breadth, as well as its diverse methodologies, ranging from local ethnographies to macroeconomic world region comparisons.

Children, Families, and Health

The reproduction of intergenerational inequality begins at a young age, and experiences within the primary social institution of the family play a key role in determining socioeconomic opportunity, health, and wellbeing. PSTC research, by demonstrating the childhood origins of social inequality, is immediately relevant to public policy about population-level inequality. The PSTC's long-standing reputation in family and household demography reflects expertise that spans Anthropology, Economics, Public Health, and Sociology.

Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS 

More than 30 years into the AIDS epidemic, over 2.5 million new HIV infections still occur each year, and AIDS remains the leading cause of death among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. Unmet need for contraception also remains a major challenge, as an estimated 200 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using an effective contraceptive method. The PSTC continues to engage with issues of reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, and gender--including its emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa and adolescent health.

Population and Environment

Global environmental challenges, such as climate change and the impact of environmental toxins on health, necessitate empirically grounded population research on dynamic human-environment interactions. PSTC researchers build a deep understanding of the bidirectional causal relationships between population change and environmental change.