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There are terrifically interesting research questions in the area of population health. There are also large numbers of undergraduates who are interested in health, especially global health. There is a great opportunity for demographers to teach large-enrollment undergraduate courses in the health of populations. Reproductive health fits comfortably into such a course, and undergraduates are always interested in reproduction. Being able to teach large-enrollment undergraduate courses is an advantage for any discipline—just ask a dean. Demography lost enrollments when populations stopped exploding.

Now is the hour for population health. In part, it was the sexual revolution, which was in full swing during my years as an undergraduate at Harvard. It inspired me to volunteer at Planned Parenthood—my first foray into reproductive health issues. This could have led nowhere—but fortuitously I was becoming disenchanted with my major in psychology.

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I decided to finish up my requirements and spend my senior year in college getting a liberal arts education. I took a wide range of courses—Shakespeare, history, and a course in demography taught by David Heer. After my first class I was hooked—demography provided a way to study human behavior that was straightforwardly quantitative and methodologically rigorous. I resolved to work in the field after graduation, and set out to write to every population-related organization in Washington, DC to ask for a job. As it turns out, no one would hire a college graduate with one course in demography for a job in a population organization.

Agency for International Development if I went to graduate school. One of my first jobs was to redesign the survey, which had originally included only married women and never-married women with children, to include single women. This was in response to evidence that, by , was irrefutable: single women were having sex and getting pregnant. This job was completely different. Instead of creating science, I was now funding it. In this job, my goal was to advance demographic research.

During my years at NICHD my branch supported large-scale data projects that provide the foundation for demographic research; expanded research on families and children, intimate relationships, and immigration; led the incorporation of social science into AIDS research; and expanded our support for demographic research on health.

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Perhaps the most dramatic aspect of my tenure at NICHD was the periodic requirement to defend the research we were supporting in the face of congressional attacks. We were funding research on sexual behavior, a basic element in understanding both fertility and reproductive health. But sexual behavior studies sometimes attract the attention of members of Congress, especially around election time.

They can easily be taken out of context to be made to sound prurient or unnecessary. The American Teenage Study was designed by top scientists to provide definitive answers on the causes of teen pregnancy. But, soon after I arrived, the study came to the attention of conservatives in Congress who objected to asking minors explicit questions about sex. After the Secretary of Health and Human Services was told about it on a talk show, the survey was shut down.

The press erupted in outrage over political interference in science and our office was inundated by mail from conservative groups.


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We provided the NIH leadership with ammunition to defend the research and worked behind the scenes with advocacy groups who rallied to our cause. After three years of effort, Congress passed a law requiring the NIH to conduct a new comprehensive study of adolescent health—described in terms that left no doubt that a study like the American Teenage Study, but with a general focus on health, would be appropriate.

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When it came time to release the first results of Add Health, the findings emphasized the importance of parents for protecting adolescent health—drawing praise from the very same conservative groups who had shut down its predecessor. My main focus here was to support and leverage the work of behavioral and social scientists across the NIH; and to amplify the message that health is a function not only of molecules and cells but also of behavior, social systems, and human environments.

I retired from federal service at the age of 59, recognizing that I had an opportunity to explore other aspects of a career in demography. Since that time, I have taught a course in health disparities, done research exploring models of culture in demography, co-directed a fellowship program in population health, and served as President of the Population Association of America. Demography is interdisciplinary. Integrating some fields anthropology, for example is harder because of differences in methods, but still very important because of the insights other fields bring.

Demography has a willingness to tackle new problems outside of our traditional core of fertility, mortality, and migration. We have addressed all sorts of population issues—creating productive adults, understanding the determinants of health, changes in marriage, the impact of immigration, and poverty and inequality.

A demography professor, Barbara Anderson, needed a research assistant who could read Russian and she hired me to help with her research. My job was to look through Russian journals and statistical yearbooks for certain demographic topics and data. As I worked for her, Barbara began to explain the work she was doing and I found it to be extremely interesting.

She encouraged me to take a few demography classes, which I did. I enjoyed the classes and I decided to pursue a PhD in demography. I have a PhD in sociology from Princeton University. My dissertation focused on infant mortality in the former Soviet Union. As part of my dissertation work, I spent several months in Moscow in getting data for my work. It was an interesting time to be in Moscow as there were food shortages, as well as shortages of many other products. Every time I saw a line, I would join it because sometimes it turned out that the line was for fresh fruit or some other scarcity.

When I finished my PhD, I went to work for the Census Bureau and I have worked there ever since in several positions, each with increasing responsibilities. While in the IPC, my research focused broadly on the impact of aging populations worldwide; gender issues; and the collection, analysis, and dissemination of demographic data. When I first came to the Census Bureau, I analyzed demographic data and wrote reports with a special emphasis on aging and health issues in the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.

It was a great job as I was able to focus on an area of the world in which I had an interest. I also coordinated the gender statistics research and technical assistance program, which included developing and carrying out research projects, teaching workshops, and providing technical assistance overseas. I developed a two-week workshop on gender statistics and taught the workshop in several countries. Teaching this workshop was rewarding because not only was it about gender issues but it also taught people how to present data graphically.

It also created a great network of colleagues doing work on similar topics. One of the projects I developed while working in the IPC provided me with hands-on experience with a wide range of statistical survey methodologies. In response to a demand for data on mortality in developing countries, particularly data on AIDS mortality, I collaborated with colleagues from Measure Evaluation to design, develop, and test a sample vital registration system that uses verbal autopsies in order to obtain data on mortality by cause.

This is a system designed to collect nationally representative data on mortality by broad age groups and by broad causes in developing countries. The Census Bureau produces annual population estimates for the nation, states, counties, cities, and towns. Every 10 years we have a census that we use to evaluate the population estimates. Over the s, I led the team of people who produced the population estimates and we were continually researching ways to improve them. We focused mainly on improving the estimates of net international migration as well as the estimates of domestic migration.

In , the census count was ,, and the population estimate was ,, The difference between the census count and the estimate was less than , people or 0.

Mortality and Causes of Death in 20th-Century Ukraine

This was a remarkable level of agreement between a census count and a population estimate. I also led the team that produced the demographic analysis estimates for the census. Demographic analysis estimates DA are developed from historical vital statistics, estimates of international migration, and other data sources that are essentially independent of the census.

For , we produced five series of DA estimates to show that there was some uncertainty in the estimates. We released our DA estimates prior to the release of the census and without knowledge of the census counts. As with the population estimates, the DA middle estimate was extremely close to the census counts, less than , people different or 0. A few things about my job have really shaped my career. First, throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work on a wide variety of topics. I also have had several wonderful mentors, each of whom provided me with valuable lessons from different perspectives.

And while at the Census Bureau, I have had the opportunity to travel to many countries. Sometimes I went to teach workshops or provide technical assistance. Other times I traveled to give talks, attend professional meetings, or represent the U. These elements have made for an interesting and rewarding career in demography. They also made me a better demographer because I benefited from meeting and working with demographers from around the world.

Doing this with increasingly limited resources is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the field. I think another challenge is maintaining the core essence of demography. However, having said that, demography is a great field to work in. As demographers our work can be critically important at several different levels.

If you look in any newspaper or online news site, you can almost always find a story that uses demographic data.


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In my sophomore year in college I took a course on population and knew immediately that it combined my interest in social issues with quantitative methods. I was hooked! As part of my BA program I was able to do a five-week self-directed activity. I chose to do all the research I could on how family planning became an issue in the U.

I augmented that with visiting and talking with the local family-planning program. I felt strongly that if women could not control that fundamental aspect of their lives, they would be unable to control others, such as investing in education and professional lives. That said, I worked for a year and then went to graduate school to build more skills. After graduate school I went to the NIH on a two-year appointment—and stayed for 30 years. I was able to develop a research program on adolescent sexual and fertility behavior, advance our understanding of AIDS risk behaviors, and much more.

It was a great experience.

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Now, I have been able to extend those interests in my work at the Population Council and most recently at the Population Reference Bureau. My work has been largely in research administration—which sounds dull, but is anything but! It has placed me at the interface of academic research advances and the process of getting those advances known and understood by policy makers.

There is a great need for demographic information in many sectors and there is a need for those who can help translate information for those audiences. As president of the Population Reference Bureau PRB in Washington, DC, we get data to decision makers to inform, empower, and advance population issues in the United States and around the world—actions that are critical to the support of strong, effective policies and programs to advance reproductive health and the well-being of populations.


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  4. In my past work at NIH, I helped to craft the policies on sharing data and on the inclusion of women and minorities in research, both key issues for how research is done to the benefit of all. At the Population Council, I worked toward helping adolescents make the transition to healthy, productive adulthood.

    The kinds of problems we deal with take a long time to address but we have seen success. There may be long-standing traditions of child marriage, for example, but families and communities can learn ways to redefine those traditions that also protect young girls from marriage. The younger the girl, the greater the age gap between her and her spouse, the less voice she is likely to have in the decision to marry, the end of schooling, and the beginning of very early childbearing.

    So, when we see communities that begin to value their daughters more, provide alternatives for them, support their schooling, and open up new opportunities for them. I believe that whether or not girls are valued is an issue that everyone can relate to. There is a fundamental satisfaction that comes from such work and this is an important way to spread a vision of the compassion of people for others. The field of demography faces several challenges. While there are massive amounts of data available, they are not necessarily easily available. Also, demography deals with fundamentally personal topics—sex, fertility, marriage, and death.

    We must forge strong alliances with many disciplines so that we can obtain the most valid information in a way that protects the sensibilities and rights of respondents. By my second year at the University of Chicago, I knew that demographic methods would allow me to profoundly confront my sociological interests. For me it was as simple as knowing that this is the only social science in the world defined by a balanced equation.

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    The only problem we have is having data of a quality sufficient to estimate the different parameters of this equation. We know what goes into making population numbers what they are. The distinction of this disciplinary uniqueness was attractive to my sociological imagination. I was convinced as a young man that if I were to make a contribution to understanding and society, I would need to ground my understanding of society in facts.

    I entered San Jose State University in as a member of the track team.

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    After a year of running track and actively participating on the team, I decided that my future lie elsewhere. I informed the coach that I needed to spend more time with my studies, and left the track team. My undergraduate degree is in sociology with minors in economics and Afro-American studies. It was during this year that my great love for sociology was confirmed. I next entered the University of Chicago. After four years of the most rigorous sociology training that could be offered, I left the University of Chicago for my first job as an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

    While I attended the University of Chicago, Evelyn Kitagawa, a professor of sociology who did path-breaking work on demography with an emphasis on the study of mortality, inspired me to think about demography as an essential tool in my research. It was in her methods classes that I was able to really come to appreciate the potential of the science of demography in helping us understand society. Other professors, like Dennis Hogan and Douglas Anderton, while a different generation of scholars, confirmed for me that demography was an essential method to be employed in my sociological practice.

    I have thought of my contributions primarily in terms of projects. These projects always have the objective of providing education, which might help make the world a better place. My research interests have focused on racial stratification and African and African Diaspora populations. My first major project was collaboration with Phil Morgan and Sam Preston to study racial differences in family structure using historical census data from the United States. Following the successful publication of a number of articles, this collaboration led to my next project, which was an examination of mortality in historical Liberia.

    On March , after the Bolsheviks took power in Russia, the Brest-Litovsk treaty recognized German domination over the Baltic region, but the treaty was denounced by the Soviets soon after. Meanwhile, in this hectic context, the three Baltic countries proclaimed their independence: Estonia and Lithuania in February and Latvia in November Practically the same correction coefficients were applied to the years s and s as for the beginning of the years s, assuming that the registration system was not worse in the interwar period than in the beginning of the s.

    Age structures from electoral lists are available for , , , , and In and , the electoral lists were supplemented by a special enumeration of children and young people aged 0— For Estonia, the age structures obtained from electoral lists and the enumeration of children were compared with the age structures reconstructed by Kalev Katus. The comparison revealed a good match between the two Puur and Uuet Puur, A.

    Eesti NSV — Tuna 2: 61 — In these countries, a very huge over-mortality is observed at working ages largely due to alcohol abuse and violent deaths that results in an age profile of mortality that cannot fit with any model life table. In , the Soviet Goskomstat decided to enumerate perinatal deaths and began issuing perinatal death certificates in Petukhov and O. Based on a painstaking work of reconstitution, this study is the first to provide a detailed estimation of the hecatomb in terms of number of deaths and life expectancy.

    The famine of was alone responsible for the deaths of 2. Once the crises of the s and s were over, the earlier trend in health resumed and mortality declined steadily until the s. At this point, however, a new type of crisis appeared that caused a sustained reversal in the existing trends.