Menu Close

What is a Population Research Center?


We’re asking notable scholars and alumni from the larger Carolina Population Center community to define the “Population Research Center” community in their own words.

You can read all of the installments here:

Robert Hummer
Sara Curran

Robert HummerA population research center is a research and training unit of a university that serves to substantially enhance the amount and quality of research that faculty, postdoctoral trainees, and graduate trainees conduct in the areas of demography, population health, and reproductive health.

Population research centers bring “added value” to researchers; they exist to make population-based research projects start and run more smoothly, and to make population-based research projects more productive. Population research centers also serve graduate students. While students who work in a population research center earn their degrees in an academic department (e.g., Sociology, Geography, Epidemiology, Nutrition, etc.), their research careers can be greatly enhanced by the work they conduct in a population research center.

Here at the Carolina Population Center (CPC), there are two graduate training programs that students can apply to: one when they are applying to a PhD program (Population Science Training Program) and the second when they are already enrolled in a PhD program at UNC (Biosocial Training Program).

There are approximately 30 population research centers in the United States, most of which are located in large, research-based universities. The CPC is universally regarded as one of the largest, most productive (in terms of research funding and publications), and well-regarded.

Founded in 1966, the CPC currently includes 65+ faculty fellows, 15 postdoctoral trainees, 45 graduate student trainees, and approximately 200 research staff. The CPC regularly has funded research projects averaging $75 million on an annual basis. The CPC is housed in a beautiful new building, located at 123 West Franklin Street. Please contact Michelle Collins for more information about the CPC training programs!

Robert Hummer, PhD
Howard W. Odum Distinguished Professor, Sociology
Program Co-Director, Biosocial Training Program
President-Elect, Population Association of America


Sara Curran joined the faculty of the University of Washington‘s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy & Governance in 2005, where she serves as the director of the UW’s Center for Studies in Demography & Ecology. She is Professor of International Studies, Professor of Sociology, and Professor of Public Policy & Governance. She holds degrees from the University of Michigan (B.S., Natural Resource Management), North Carolina State University (M.S., Sociology and Economics), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Ph.D., Sociology).

What is a population center?

A population research center is usually a collaborative hub for interdisciplinary scientists from all fields interested in advancing population science.  Their activities might include generating new population-level data, developing new techniques to estimate population size, composition, change, mobility, or growth, applying demographic modeling techniques, or answering questions about how population dynamics affect behavioral, social and environmental outcomes or the reciprocal.  These scientists might include social scientists or physical scientists or health scientists or public policy analysts.  Population research and population researchers can also bring to bear their data, analytic approach, and findings to provide invaluable insights about the potential and actual impacts of policies and programs on small and large populations.  Members of population research centers are committed to sharing their research and growing the capacities of individuals and teams to conduct population science.

Who works at them?

Population centers include faculty conducting population research, students training to become population researchers, and many staff with considerable expertise in computing, methodologies, communication, and project management.  Together, members of population research centers provide a vibrant and inclusive research infrastructure that accelerates research productivity.