Michael White

White, MichaelWhite, MichaelMichael White

210 Maxcy Hall
401-863-1083 phone 

Ph.D. University of Chicago

Brown University Research Profile Page

Curriculum Vitae 

Areas of Interest: 
Demography, Immigration, Urban Sociology, Environment, Social Policy, Africa

My areas of interest span demography and urban sociology with a particular interest in topics pertinent to public policy, such as US immigration policy, and the implications of migration for health in developing countries. Much of my research is unified by a concern for population distribution and migration: processes of movement, settlement, and adjustment.  I take this interest to a wide variety of geographic settings, looking at urbanization in China and Vietnam; urban growth, health and environmental change in Africa; and international migration to high income countries.

Professional Background:
I joined the Sociology Department and the PSTC at Brown University in 1989, after previously holding positions at Princeton University and the Urban Institute. I have also been a fellow of theWoodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. Over the years I have held a series of external grant awards from NIH, NSF, and private foundations. My professional service has included committee work for the Population Association of America, research and review panels for the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health, and service as President of the Association of Population Centers. Currently I serve on the Scientific Panel on the Impact of Internal Migration and Urbanization in Developing Countries of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. At Brown, I have taken a turn as chair of the Sociology Department and as director of the Population Studies and Training Center.

Current Research:

Immigration and Ethnicity. A stream of work on United States immigrant adaptation led to the publication (with Jennifer E. Glick) of Achieving Anew: How New Immigrants Do in American Schools, Jobs, and Neighborhoods. (Russell Sage Foundation, 2009); paperback 2011, which was awarded the 2010 Otis Dudley Duncan (Book) Prize from the Population Section of the American Sociological Association. More information about the book (and an online link to the first chapter) is available at: http://www.russellsage.org/publications/books/090112.908833

Reviews of this book are available in Contemporary Sociology, European Sociological Review, Social Forces, the Journal of Economic Literature, City and Community.

I am currently extending this research on immigrant assimilation, working with longitudinal data with greater focus on contextual conditions, such as school and community environment, that promote or retard successful achievement in the American setting. Recent work with Nicola Barban has extended this type of analysis to the case of Italy (International Migration Review, forthcoming) 

In a related strand of work I investigate ethnic residential patterns in cities. Recent findings linking that subject to the discussion of clustering by “panethnicity” are found in a 2010 paper (with Ann Kim, see link below) in the American Journal of Sociology. I continue to work on new methods for analyzing residential segregation, developing approaches that can reflect the increasing ethnic diversity of contemporary urban areas.

Kim, AH; White, MJ. 2010 “Panethnicity. Ethnic Diversity, and Residential Segregation.” American Journal of Sociology 115 (March): 1558–962010.

Urbanization, Migration, Health and Environment. In developing societies, I study the determinants of migration, urbanization, and their demographic and environmental consequences. In several countries, I examine the link between migration patterns and economic restructuring.  I continue to be heavily involved in research in Africa.

I am just beginning a collaboration involving colleagues at Brown and the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. With the support of the Center For AIDS Research, we are beginning to examine the relationship between rural-urban migration, return migration and health. Many health conditions, such as HIV/AIDS are influenced by the quality of ties between the migrant and the home community, and we hope to shed light on emerging issues in South Africa (as HIV treatment becomes more available) by following migrants over time as they move away, and sometimes return.

For several years I coordinated an interdisciplinary project that examined demographic change, health issues, and water quality along the coast of Ghana. The project website may be found here:http://www.pstc.brown.edu/ghana/index.htm

An overview publication with a synopsis of several key research results is:

"Urbanization and Environmental Quality: Insights from Ghana on Sustainable Policies" (with C Andrzejewski; K Awusabo-Asare; A Kumi-Kyereme; SW Nixon; B Buckley; S Granger; H Reed). In A de Sherbinin, A Rahman, A Barbieri, JC Fotso, and Y Zhu (eds), Urban Population-Environment Dynamics in the Developing World: Case Studies and Lessons Learned. Paris: CICRED, 2009.

Some additional relevant publications include:

Reed, HE; Andrzejewski, CS. 2010. “Men’s and Women’s Migration in Coastal Ghana: An Event History Analysis.” Demographic Research, 22:771-812.http://www.demographic-research.org/volumes/vol22/25/22-25.pdf DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2010.22.25

White, MJ; Hunter, LM. 2009. “Public Perception of Environmental Issues in a Developing Setting” Social Science Quarterly. 90:960-982.http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=44628345&site=ehost-live

Andrzejewski CS; Reed, HR; White, MJ. 2009. “Does where you live influence what you know? Community effects on health knowledge in Ghana” Health and Place. 15(1): 228-238. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2008.05.002

White, M; Muhidin, S; Andrzejewski, C; Tagoe, E. ; Reed, H. ; R. Knight. “Urbanization and Fertility: An Event-History Analysis of Coastal Ghana.” Demography, 45 803-816http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/dem.0.0035

McGarvey, S; J. Buszin, H Reed, DC Smith, Z Rahman, C Andrzejewski, K Awusabo-Asare, MJ White. 2008 “Community and Household Determinants of Water Quality in Coastal Ghana.” Journal of Water and Health 6: 339–349:http://dx.doi.org/10.2166/wh.2008.057 

INDEPTH. I also work with INDEPTH network of demographic and health surveillance sites in developing countries. Here the interest is in taking advantage of these unique and longitudinal data to better understand the interrelationship of migration and health in low-resource settings. An edited book from the project summarizes some approaches and findings:

Collinson, M; Adazu, K; White, MJ: Findley, S (Eds) The Dynamics of Migration, Health and Livelihoods.  London: Ashgate, 2009.

New efforts are underway for an expanded round of multisite analysis of such data.

Explaining Low Fertility. A project led by David Kertzer (Provost and Professor of Anthropology), aims to understand the structural and interpersonal determinants of the surprisingly persistent pattern of low birth rates in Italy. The project website contains more details and links to publications: http://www.pstc.brown.edu/elfi/index.htm. In addition to substantive concerns with what explains low birth rates, the project is advancing multi-method inquiry. For instance, we are using text analysis software to synthesize and interpret many pages of interview transcripts with our Italian respondents. Recent project papers include:

Kertzer, D; White, MJ, Gabrielli, G; Bernardi, L. 2009. “Italy’s Path to Very Low Fertility: The Adequacy of Economic and Second Demographic Transition Theories”. European Journal of Population 25:89–115. 

Gabrielli G, Paterno A; White, M. 2007. “The Impact of Origin Region and Internal Migration on Italian Fertility.” Demographic Research 17 (December): 705-740. 


For undergraduates I teach Sociology 130, American Heritage: Democracy, Inequality, and Public Policy. I teach several graduate-level courses in demographic techniques migration, research methods, and other subjects.