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Karen Guzzo
Ph.D., Professor, Sociology
Director, Carolina Population Center
Curriculum Vitae
Google Scholar Profile

As a family demographer, I study family formation behaviors in the United States. Much of my work examines trends and patterns in childbearing, primarily using survey data. I'm interested in whether and when people have children and under what circumstances - and the factors that influences childbearing attitudes, preferences, and behaviors. I also study changes in relationship formation and stability - why people do, or do not, date, live with a partner, or get married, and the stability of relationships among individuals and across cohorts over time.

Dr. Guzzo’s journey to becoming a population scientist began when she was student in the Sociology Department at UNC Chapel Hill and as a predoctoral trainee at CPC. These experiences set the basis for her own career path as a quantitative sociologist studying American fertility and family behaviors. Current and recent funded projects include studies on the measurement of both theoretical concepts and actual fertility behavior in U.S. surveys, a project on U.S. fertility during the pandemic, and projects related to American teens’ and young adults’ attitudes towards family behavior.

Much of her work focuses on the challenges of measurement of family behaviors. Surveys typically include questions that ask individuals about their past childbearing, cohabitation, and marriage behaviors and their future plans, yet issues of question wording, respondent recall, and social desirability may influence the reliability and accuracy of people’s reports. Dr. Guzzo’s work has delved extensively into how demographers measure concepts such as multipartnered fertility or identify different family forms such as stepfamilies or families that span households.

Dr. Guzzo is an expert on trends and differentials in U.S. fertility preferences and fertility behaviors, such as delayed childbearing and childlessness, fertility intentions, nonmarital fertility, and childbearing across partnerships. Her work takes a reproductive career approach, which grounds childbearing behaviors both in the larger life course and in relation to individuals’ past and future childbearing goals and behaviors. For instance, her work shows that women with one unintended birth are more likely to experience subsequent unintended births, that an unintended birth is linked to later contraceptive behaviors, and that having an unintended birth increases the chances of having births with more than one partner.

Other work links fertility behaviors to relationship stability; her research shows that unintended fertility increases the risk that a couple breaks up. Dr. Guzzo’s work linking childbearing to relationships is part of her broader attention to trends in union formation and stability as well as research on how individuals across the life course think about relationships. Delays in marriage and the rise in nonmarriage, along with the high prevalence of cohabitation and new relationship types such as “living apart together,” mean that the landscape of how individuals engage in intimate relationships in contemporary societies is constantly involving. She is part of a group of family demographers studying singlehood, with a pilot data collection going into the field in fall ’22.

Dr. Guzzo is an active member of the family and demography scholarly communities. She currently serves on the American Sociological Association’s councils for the Sociology of the Family section and the Population section. She previously served on the Board of Directors for the National Council on Family Relations. She has served on the program committee for the annual meeting of the Population Association of America and currently serves as a Deputy Editor for Demography in addition to being on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Marriage and Family and the Journal of Family Theory & Review.

Associated Projects

Associated Research Themes