Ronald R. Rindfuss
Ph.D., Research Professor, Fellow Emeritus, Sociology
Ron Rindfuss is a Fellow Emeritus at the Carolina Population Center.
Rindfuss has had a longstanding interest in social factors affecting fertility. He has argued that institutional factors, primarily operating at the country level, are crucial. While he has used this perspective to study fertility change and variation in developed and developing countries, his more recent work has focused on explaining variation in low fertility among high and middle income countries. For example, in a highly cited paper he shows that the association of female labor force participation and fertility at the country level had shifted from negative to positive. An interpretation of this finding is that countries with high levels of female labor force participation had developed institutional arrangements that reduce the completion between work and family demands. Evidence in support of this explanation comes from work with Guilkey, Morgan and others that uses Norwegian data. This work showed that making high-quality, affordable, and acceptable child care available leads to a younger age at first birth and to higher overall fertility. Child care is an example of an institutional arrangement that reduces work/family conflict. Rindfuss is currently working on a project funded by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) which contracted with experts in 18 low fertility countries in North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania to write review papers on the fertility situation in their country, and the institutional factors likely affecting fertility there. Two workshops were held at the East-West Center (December 2013 and August 2014) that will result in two book volumes, with each paper having gone through a rigorous peer review. The first volume has been sent to Springer; the second will be sent to Springer summer 2015.
Rindfuss also works in the population and environment area, with special attention to the role of migration. In the past decade, this work has been in Nang Rong district, Northeast Thailand, in collaboration with Entwisle and Walsh. Heading an NIH Roadmap grant, he worked with numerous researchers to show how agent-based models can be used more broadly. Rindfuss plans to extend his investigations of migration and the environment to the Galapagos Islands, a place that has experienced substantial increases in migration related to the exponential increases in tourist visits. He has continued his work with agent-based models and compared the effects of different farming systems in Thailand and Nepal. Finally, working with Soe Myint, Arizona State University, Rindfuss is examining the urban heat island effect for 159 desert cities around the globe. This work encompasses both biophysical and socioeconomic factors.
Rindfuss will continue his work on the institutional factors affecting fertility in economically developed countries. He plans to work with two experts on comparative social policy, Evelyne Huber and John Stephens, bringing together macro-level institutional indicators and micro-level fertility histories for 24 European, East Asian, North American and Oceanic countries. His population and environment work will focus on the effects of tourism that, at its core, is a form of very short-term migration.