Prospective Students

Thank you for your interest in the PhD program in Demography at the University of Pennsylvania! Demography has a long and distinguished tradition at the University of Pennsylvania, and many leading scholars in the field have close connections to the Demography Program at Penn. By joining the Graduate Group of Demography, you are part of a network of scholars that has importantly influenced the study of population over several decades. The Graduate Group in Demography (GGD) at the University of Pennsylvania is one of three programs in the United States to grant a specialized graduate degree in demography, as opposed to degrees in sociology and economics with a special emphasis in population studies. The GGD is housed in the Population Studies Center (PSC), and has faculty members with backgrounds in sociology, economics, demography, nursing, and medicine. Penn is unique in having professors who teach and conduct research within virtually all substantive areas of population. During your studies you will thus find an unusually rich and stimulating environment that supports your training, intellectual development and dissertation research. Our program is supported by a very strong commitment of the University of Pennsylvania to training and research in Demography, the generous support of our Program through training and research grants provided by the National Institutes of Health (NICHD and NIA), and the assistance provided to our students and faculty by many other organizations and foundations. Our goal is to train researchers in the field of Demography and to see you as active and successful members of the demographic research community. We look forward to assisting you in the near future.


Applications are accepted only for Fall semester matriculation (beginning in late August); the deadline for application is December 15. Applications that arrive later may still be considered, but the chance of both admission and financial support may well be lower. In the Graduate Group in Demography, such decisions are made by the Admissions and Awards Committee, which meets from mid-January to early March.

Recommendation letters (three minimum, five maximum) can be addressed to the Chair of the Graduate Group in Demography.

Admissions information, the graduate handbook and the on-line application can be found on the Graduate Division of the School of Arts and Sciences website. Prospective students should apply using the electronic application via the Electronic On-line Application website. The Admissions Application website opens in October for the upcoming admissions cycle.

All applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Exams (GRE's). Scores are valid for five years. Applicants whose native language is not English and have not completed a degree at an English speaking university are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Scores are valid for two years. You can see the range of test scores for students accepted and matriculated, as well as other statistics related to the GGD program.

A Bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement. While an interest in demography is essential, you do not need a background in demography, sociology, and economics. The pie chart below shows the most recent degree of admitted students between 2010 and 2016. These degrees are the degree (either BA or MA) received just prior to being admitted into the Penn Demography program.

The Graduate Group in Demography requires a writing sample and personal statement.

Financial Support

Virtually all students matriculating in the Graduate Group in Demography receive support for their tuition as well as a stipend for modest living expenses. The Admissions and Awards Committee awards a limited number of fellowships from various sources, including competitive University fellowships, and training grants from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development. Research assistantships associated with externally funded faculty research projects and teaching assistantships may also be available. These financial resources are allocated primarily on the basis of merit, so all applicants are advised to check the appropriate financial support box on the first page of the application form. Because these financial resources are comparatively scarce, it is also highly advisable for prospective students to seek financial support from outside sources: for example, U.S. students should consider applying to the National Science Foundation; foreign students should consider the Fulbright Commission (with offices in most countries), as well as other sources of national support.


If you have any questions about the PhD application, feel free to contact the GGD Coordinator, Abby Dolinger, at, or the GGD Chair, Irma Elo, at