Michael White

White, MichaelWhite, MichaelMichael White

210 Maxcy Hall
401-863-1083 phone 

Ph.D. University of Chicago

Brown University Research Profile Page

Curriculum Vitae

Areas of Interest: 
Demography, Immigration, Urban Sociology, Environment, Social Policy, Africa

Michael White is the Robert E. Turner Distinguished Professor of Population Studies at Brown University, where he is also Professor of Sociology and Director (as of 1 July 2016) of the initiative in Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences.  Previously at Brown, he served as Chair of the Sociology Department and as director of the Population Studies and Training Center.  White is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Honorary Research Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.  He currently serves on the advisory board of the Asian Demographic Research Institute (Shanghai), and he is an associate editor of Demography.  Prior to arriving at Brown in 1989, White taught at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and was a Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute in Washington DC.

White’s research covers a wide array of topics within the broad area of migration and population distribution: from urban residential segregation, to rural-urban migration in developing societies, to contemporary international migration and immigrant assimilation.  White’s publications reflect his combination of sociology, demography, and public policy interests.  He is editor of the International Handbook of Population Distribution and Migration (Springer, 2016), a 26 chapter compendium of knowledge on the subject with contributions from leading scholars around the world. Other recent books include Achieving Anew: How New Immigrants Do in American Schools, Jobs, and Neighborhoods (with J Glick; Russell Sage, 2009; Otis Dudley Duncan Prize) and The Dynamics of Migration, Health and Livelihoods (co-edited with M Collinson, K Adazu, and S Findley; Ashgate, 2009).   


Current Research:

Migration and Health in South Africa. White continues an active collaboration involving colleagues at Brown and the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. This project examines the relationships among migration, urbanization, and health outcomes in South Africa.  The project follows both residents and migrants from a rural district in northeastern South Africa.  White and his international, interdisciplinary team aim to understand the individual, household, and village level characteristics that predict migration and the nature of the links between rural original and urban destination.   Many health conditions, such as HIV/AIDS and emerging non-communicable diseases, are influenced by the access to care among of circulating migrants and the quality of ties between the migrant and the home community.  This work has been supported by the US NIH (CFAR), the Medical Research Council of South Africa, Brown University, and the University of the Witwatersrand. 

Selected Papers and Publications on this topic

Collinson, MA; White, MJ, et al [6 others]. 2014. “Migration and the Epidemiological Transition: Insights from the Agincourt sub-district of Northeast South Africa.”  Global Health Action 2014, 7: 23514 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/gha.v7.23514.

Gerritsen A; Bocquier P; White MJ; Mbacké C; Alam N; Beguy D; Odhiambo F; Sacoor C; Phuc HD; Punpuing S; Collinson MA. 2013. "Health and Demographic Surveillance Systems: Contributing to an Understanding of the Dynamics in Migration and Health." Global Health Action. 6: 21496 -  http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/gha.v6i0.21496

Mberu BU; White MJ. 2011.  "Internal migration and health: Premarital sexual initiation in Nigeria" Social Science & Medicine 72(April):1284-1293.

Immigration and Ethnicity. A stream of work on United States immigrant adaptation led to the publication (with Jennifer E. Glick) of Achieving Anew: How New Immigrants Do in American Schools, Jobs, and Neighborhoods (Russell Sage Foundation, 2009); paperback 2011, which was awarded the 2010 Otis Dudley Duncan (Book) Prize from the Population Section of the American Sociological Association. More information about the book (and an online link to the first chapter) is available at: http://www.russellsage.org/publications/books/090112.908833

White is currently extending this research on immigrant assimilation, working with US longitudinal education data to examine the influence of contextual conditions, such as school and community environment, that promote or retard successful immigrant achievement.  A paper with Nicola Barban carried this type of analysis to the case of Italy (International Migration Review, 2011), and an article with Erica Mullen (see below) pursued such issues for the early 20th Century United States. 

Related work investigates ethnic residential patterns in cities. Recent findings linking that subject to the discussion of clustering by “panethnicity” are found in a 2010 paper (with Ann Kim, see link below) in the American Journal of Sociology. White continues to work in this topic, developing newer approaches that can reflect the increasing ethnic diversity of contemporary urban areas, and now also investigating multi-group segregation patterns in South Africa.

Selected Papers and Publications on this topic

White MJ; Mullen EJ. 2016. “Socioeconomic Attainment in the Ellis Island Era.” Social Science History. 40, Spring 2016:147–181

Kim, AH; White, MJ. 2010 “Panethnicity. Ethnic Diversity, and Residential Segregation.” American Journal of Sociology 115 (March): 1558–962010.


Prior Research:

Explaining Low Fertility. A project led by David Kertzer (Professor of Anthropology), examined the structural and interpersonal determinants of the surprisingly persistent pattern of low birth rates in Italy.  In addition to substantive concerns with what explains low birth rates, the project advanced multi-method inquiry. For instance, project team members used text analysis software to synthesize and interpret many pages of interview transcripts with Italian respondents.  See CV for related indicative publications in Sociological Methodology, Demographic Research, and the European Journal of Population.

Population and Environment. For several years White coordinated an interdisciplinary project that examined demographic change, health issues, and water quality along the coast of Ghana. An overview publication with a synopsis of several key research results is found in:

"Urbanization and Environmental Quality: Insights from Ghana on Sustainable Policies" (with C Andrzejewski; K Awusabo-Asare; A Kumi-Kyereme; SW Nixon; B Buckley; S Granger; H Reed). In A de Sherbinin, A Rahman, A Barbieri, JC Fotso, and Y Zhu (eds), Urban Population-Environment Dynamics in the Developing World: Case Studies and Lessons Learned. Paris: CICRED, 2009.

For undergraduates I often teach Sociology 130, American Heritage: Democracy, Inequality, and Public Policy, a sociologically oriented introduction to issues of social policy; and Sociology 187K, Demographics and Development, an upper division empirically oriented seminar on contemporary population issues in both high-income and low-income societies. I teach several graduate-level courses, including most recently Soc 2230 Techniques of Demographic Analysis and Soc 2010 Multivariate Statitics I