Etienne van de Walle Prize for Best Graduate Student Paper in Demography

The Etienne van de Walle Prize is awarded biennially for the best paper in demography written by a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. The prize honors a man of intense intellectual curiosity whose research covered a broad sweep of human experience. He spent most of his career at the University of Pennsylvania and taught many hundreds of graduate students to ask penetrating questions, to be skeptical about the quality of data and evidence used to answer these questions, and to recognize the centrality of demographic processes in social life. Papers will be judged on the basis both of their technical competence and of the breadth and importance of their subject matter. This award honors the memory of Etienne van de Walle, a world-renowned Penn demographer who was tireless in his support of graduate training and research.

Professor van de Walle was born in Belgium and educated at the University of Louvain, where he received a doctorate in lawin 1956, a M.A. in economics in 1957, and a Ph.D. in demography in 1973. Before coming to Penn, he was a field researcher in Central Africa. He left Africa in 1961 and moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where he spent a decade as a researcher at the Office of Population Research, at Princeton University. He was a
co-author, with William Brass and others, in 1968, of The Demography of Tropical Africa, a path-breaking book on a topic about which little was known at the time. So too is The Female Population of France in the Nineteenth Century, which he published in 1974.

Professor van de Walle came to Penn in 1972 as professor of sociology where he spent his academic career, as a mainstay of the Population Studies Center, which he directed from 1976 to 1982. He was for many years chair of the graduate group in demography. He was elected First Vice-President of the Population Association of America in 1988 and, in 1992, was elected President.

“Although Professor van de Walle left Africa in 1961, the continent never really left him. He continued to do research on sub-Saharan Africa for the next 45 years. He was fascinated by changes in African families—in living patterns, in marriage customs, and in fertility. Professor van de Walle was dedicated to the training of African scholars. For 15 years he directed Penn’s African Demography Training and Research program, and was an advisor to foundations and non-governmental organizations interested in Africa’s population and the training of Africans who would be able to study the issue  on their own terms,” said Professor Herbert Smith, professor of sociology and director of the Population Studies Center.

Professor van de Walle retired in 2001, but continued writing papers on the history of contraception, analyzing African census data, working with students, and editing the English-language edition of the French journal, Population.

Etienne van de Walle's contributions to Penn also include daughter Dominique C ’78 and son's Patrice C ’82, G ’83, G ’89, WG ’89; Nicholas, C ’79 and Jean François, C ’80, G ’86, WG ’86; and granddaughter, Nadia, C ’08.

Contributions to the Prize Fund:
Contributions in support of this prize may be made by writing a check to the "Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania" and sending the check to Chair, Etienne van de Walle Prize Committee, Population Studies Center, 239 McNeil Building, University of Pennsylvania, 3718 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6298.

Next Competition: 2025

2025 competition: This award honors the memory of Etienne van de Walle, a world-renowned Penn demographer who was tireless in his support of graduate training and research. Graduate students are invited to submit papers for the Etienne van de Walle Prize. The Prize is awarded every other year for the best paper in demography written by a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. Submissions for the 2025 prize are due on November 1, 2025. Students from any discipline may submit a paper. The prize, including a cash award, will be announced in December 2025.  The winner will be asked to present the paper at the Population Studies Center colloquium in February 2026. The submission, a paper or a dissertation chapter, should be equivalent to an article suitable for a demography journal, e.g., a length of approximately 30 double-spaced pages, excluding tables, figures, notes, and bibliography.  The submission must be a single-authored paper. The paper must have been written since July 2023 and while the student was still in a Ph.D. program at Penn. All submissions should be sent to Dawn Ryan ( by November 1, 2025.


2023 Winners

Allison Dunatchik: "His and Hers Earnings Trajectories: Economic Homogamy and Long-Term Earnings Inequality Within and Between Different-Sex Couples”
Agustín Díaz Casanueva: “The Effect of Cognitive Skills on Fertility Timing”

2021 Winner

Minji Bang: "Job Flexibility and Household Labor Supply: Understanding Gender Gaps and the Child Wage Penalty"

2019 Winner

Megan N. Reed: "The Female Life Cycle, Fertility, and Women’s Status in Indian Households"

2017 Winner

Luca Maria Pesando: "Beyond Attendance: Gendered Impacts of a Cash Transfer for Education and the Unpaid Care Burden in Rural Morocco"

2015 Winner

Diego Amador: "The Consequences of Abortion and Contraception Policies on Young Women's Reproductive Choices, Schooling and Labor Supply"

2013 Winner

Arun Hendi: "Globalization and Contemporary Fertility Transitions"

2011 Winner

Rachel Margolis: "Education Differences in Healthy Behavior Changes and Adherence Among Middle-Aged Americans"

2009 Winner

Whitney Schott: "Going Back Part-time: Federal Leave Legislation and Women's Return to Work"

2007 Winner

Ahu Gemici: "Family Migration and Labor Market Outcomes"

2005 Winner

Sarah Hayford: "The Impact of Early Marital Status on Subsequent Fertility"

2003 Winner

Gretchen Livingston: "Ties That Bind: Gender, Social Capital, and Economic Outcomes Among Mexican-US Migrants"