Research Themes

Data Science is a new research area at UC Berkeley and in the Population Sciences.  In collaboration with BIDS, Dlab, and individual researchers on campus, we are exploring new data forms and methods, sometimes with existing data and methods, to reach new kinds of insights not possible before.  Demographers have a long history of working with complex data structures, so Big Data is a logical frontier.

As Keyfitz (1974) famously said, we know the basic facts of demography from our formal models. Observational studies too often obscure fundamental patterns in the interactions among key variables, some unobserved. Formal demography is a vital, living field but it has been marginalized at most research centers. BPC plays a key role in moving formal demography in new directions through our research and sustaining it through Berkeley's independent Department of Demography (supported by NIH training grants).

At the heart of population research lies the question of how population processes affect patterns of human health, and how health dynamics in turn affect population processes. This theme examines the influence of place-based context and social influences on health and health behaviors, in particular examining the role of context and society in patterning health disparities across groups.

This theme includes related research topics in the domains of fertility, reproductive health, and sexual behavior particularly as it relates to HIV/AIDS. Significance: Fertility is a foundational element of population studies. Sexual decision-making and reproduction affect the size and composition of human populations. Reproductive health most decidedly influences the well-being of women and children. Risky sexual behaviors adversely affect population health, and behaviors results in HIV/AIDS have had profound mortality consequences.

This transdisciplinary field has many of its roots at Berkeley (McFadden, Kahneman, Rabin, to name a few). Currently at Berkeley researchers are utilizing this framework to examine population processes, requiring both a disciplinary shift as well as methodological adjustments in the form of experimental design research and interventions.