I am a social and economic demographer with an expanding aging-research portfolio that builds on my prior research on health, demography and social change in developing and developed countries. A key characteristic of my research is the integration of demographic, economic, sociological and biological approaches in empirical and theoretical models of health and demographic behaviors. My research combines extensive knowledge about the life-course determinants of health, fertility/mortality, HIV/AIDS, and related economic behaviors in developing and developed countries. I have considerable experience in study design, econometric and demographic analyses, including analyses with controls for endowments and unobserved determinants of individuals’ behaviors, models of population and disease dynamics, randomized designs and integration of social science and biomedical research methods. I have been awarded the Clifford C. Clogg Award for Early Career Achievement by the Population Association of America for my interdisciplinary work on fertility and health, and have been honored with Otis Dudley Duncan Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Social Demography by the American Sociological Association. I have been a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Norwegian Academy of Science, served as the president of the Society of Biodemography and Social Biology. I was engaged as lead-paper author in the Copenhagen Consensus to evaluate policies to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV (2011, with Behrman), reduce population growth (2012), and the post-2015 UN Development Goals in the area of Population and Demography. I participated in the recent NIA-sponsored National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine expert meeting on Leveraging Rarely-Investigated Populations for Research on Behavioral and Social Processes in an Aging Context. I serve as the Chair of Penn’s Ph.D. Program in Demography and was director of the NICHD T32 HD007242 Training Program in Demography (successfully renewed in 2012).
I am the Co-Director of Penn’s Population Aging Research Center (PARC) and co-direct, with Coe as MPI, the NIA P30 PARC renewal application. I have also been (and continue to be) the PI of various NIH grants (including R01 HD044228, R21 HD050652, R01 HD053781, R01 HD090988, R21 AG053763, R01 HD087391), an NSF grant (SES 172 9185) and other grants supporting the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health (MLSFH), the Global Family Change (GFC) project and other projects on the life-course determinants of health.
My research is related to, and interconnected with, several PARC themes: Global Aging and Health: The Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health (MLSFH), which I have been directing for more than one decade, provides one of very few long-standing publicly-available longitudinal cohort studies in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) with eleven rounds of data collection since 1998. MLSFH data provide a rare record of more than two decades of demographic, socioeconomic and health conditions in one of the world's poorest countries, and these data are increasingly utilized to expand the horizon of aging research to very low-income contexts. Our MLSFH aging research, for instance, has been investigating the distinct life-course patterns of cognition and mental health, the roles of life-course adversity of health at older ages, and patterns of intergenerational support in context where families are the central conduits for providing transfers and insurance. Cognition and Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD): Newly-collected data from the MLSFH Mature Adults Cohort provide exceptional longitudinal information on cognitive health, and collaboratively with MLSFH team members and comparatively with other LMIC aging projects, we are leveraging these MLSFH data to document the prevalence and distinctive life-course determinants of ADRD in low-income countries, and we investigate individuals' and families' coping mechanisms for ADRD in contexts where awareness about and support for ADRD is very weak. Health Care and Long-Term Care at Older Ages: Our NSF-funded Global Family Change (GFC) Project is at the forefront of documenting transformations of the family in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and by leveraging census data in addition to DHS/MIPS data this project is expanding to address social support, intergenerational co-residence and family structures across the lifecourse and at older ages .The GFC project also expands my prior seminal work on low fertility to LMIC contexts, investigating among other aspects how low fertility is shaping global aging, family structures and social support systems outside the context of high-income countries where these aspects have been extensively documented. Health Disparities and Aging: Our NIH AG094011 project on Genes, Education, and Gene-Education Interactions in Obesity and Mental Health (PI: V Amin, Central Michigan University) investigates the extent to which these gene-environment interactions contribute to health-disparities at adult and older ages. As part of a project funded through NIA R21 AG053763, we are also providing evidence on the extent to which variations in perceived mortality risks at older ages is causally related to life-course behaviors and health investments, and thus health disparities at older ages, and it tests as part of an RCT if information that corrects inaccurate survival and disease perceptions help improve decision-making about health behaviors and investments at older ages.