Research Themes

The scale of research at the Population Studies Center ranges from macro economics and macro demography to human genetics and focus on understanding the dynamics of human populations. These investigations fall under the following seven (often overlapping) research themes.

Social Bases of Health Differentials
This is research devoted to understanding the physical and psychological health of individuals, but differs from clinical research and medical practice in focusing on population health. The PSC brings together social scientists and health services researchers with a strong interest in how the core paradigms of the population sciences can be used to understand the social bases of health differentials, especially health outcomes as functions not just of socially distinguished characteristics, but...More...
Human Resources and Endowments
Many differences in health and social outcomes between and within populations are functions of individual differences in the characteristics with which individuals are endowed, from genes and their phenotypic expression through family background characteristics. These outcomes also depend on the health, nutritional, and educational resources that they are granted, acquire, or invest in across the life cycle, but especially in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.More...
Demography
The PSC is anchored by a long, distinguished tradition (J Durand, D Thomas, R Easterlin, E van de Walle, Furstenberg, Preston, J Menken, D Massey, P Morgan, H-P Kohler) in demography. This has expanded in the sustained intersection between the “demographic triad”—fertility, mortality, and migration—and other signature themes (2). These phenomena, plus marriage, divorce, and cohabitation, are the substantive components of the arithmetic of formal demographic methods. A key outcome of their...More...
Innovation in Methods
All PSC program scientists are well versed in some methodology or another. In highlighting those who have been especially innovative, we are identifying groups that we maintain for the PSC to function as a leader in the corresponding area. A hallmark of PSC research activities has been collaboration between the scientists who have developed new methodologies and other program scientists.More...
International Population Research
International population research has a strong ameliorative component, e.g., improving the health and life chances in the world’s population through investments in nutrition and schooling, and in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Penn’s PSC has always been heavily weighted toward international population research. The international flavor of the PSC is important in faculty recruitment, since top scientists are recruited from a worldwide pool and many of the newest program scientists in the PSC at...More...
Policy Evaluation
Many scientific papers end with a discussion of “policy implications,” a harmless conceit that masks the complicated path from science to health, social, or economic policy. Scientists and academics do have influence, but generally from sustained engagement in which the potential for action (and its unintended consequences) are distinguished from the more general scientific tasks of measurement and explanation. Penn’s PSC has been highly successful in engaging scientists in population studies...More...