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Matt Hauer: Causal Inference in Population Trends: Searching for Demographic Anomalies in Big Data

February 19, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

On February 19, 2021, Matt Hauer, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Florida State University who studies the impacts of climate change on society, will present “Causal Inference in Population Trends: Searching for Demographic Anomalies in Big Data” as part of the Carolina Population Center’s 2020-21 Interdisciplinary Research Seminar Series. This year, the CPC Interdisciplinary Research Seminars will be open to both CPC members and Social Epidemiology program members.


The proliferation of big data, wider access to advanced computing platforms, and the development of powerful statistical algorithms can uncover hidden anomalies in social data, previously dismissed as noise. Here, we combine causal inference techniques and abductive reasoning to identify fertility and mortality anomalies on twenty years of complete demographic data in the United States. We uncover real, “hidden” baby booms/busts and mortality spikes/dips, distinguishable from regular trend variations. We identify more than 22 and 156 fertility and mortality anomalies, totaling more than 200k and 600k anomalous births and deaths, respectively. Notable detectable mortality anomalies include the September 11 2001 terrorist attack in New York and the emergence and acceleration of the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire. Notable fertility anomalies include the “missing births” in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and the reduction in fertility behavior after the September 2008 stock market crash in Connecticut, amongst others. The combined causal inference and abductive reasoning approach can be readily adapted to find other, undiscovered social phenomena or to evaluate the efficacy of important public policies


I’m an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Florida State University and a faculty affiliate in the Center for Demography and Population Health. My expertise is at the intersection of demography, migration, population projections, and climate change. My recent review article on Sea Level Rise and Human Migration describes one of the most costly and permanent consequences of climate change.

I have twice received the E. Walter Terrie Award for the best paper on Applied Demography, in 2015 Florida State University named me a Top 30 Under 30 Young Alumni, and the University of Georgia awarded me an Excellence-in-Research Award for my dissertation on sea level rise and human migration. More than 270 media outlets have covered my research including Time Magazine, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Washington Post, and National Geographic. My publications appear in a diverse set of journals including Nature Climate Change, Demography, Environmental Research Letters, Demographic Research, Population and Environment, Statistical Modelling, and Population Research and Policy Review, among others. Prior to arriving at FSU, I spent nearly a decade directing the Applied Demography Program at the University of Georgia.



This event will be held on Zoom. You can register here. We will post a recording after the talk. You can see previous events here.


February 19, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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