PDB (formerly the Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch) supports research and research training in demography, reproductive health, and population health. In demography, the branch supports research on the scientific study of human populations, including fertility, mortality and morbidity, migration, population distribution, nuptiality, family demography, population growth and decline, and the causes and consequences of demographic change. In reproductive health, the branch supports behavioral and social science research on sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, family planning, and infertility. In population health, the branch supports data collection and research on human health, productivity, behavior, and development at the population level, using such methods as inferential statistics, natural experiments, policy experiments, statistical modeling, and gene/environment interaction studies.
Contraceptive Use and Non-Use
Gap: In the United States, the proportion of pregnancies that are unintended—either mistimed or unwanted—was 45% in 2011, substantially higher than the rate for other industrialized countries1. Most unintended pregnancies in the United States occur because women and their partners either do not use contraception at all or they use it incorrectly or inconsistently (contraceptive failure accounts for only 5% of unintended pregnancies2).
Priority: Encourage research identifying the factors affecting the non-use or ineffective use of contraception among individuals who are sexually active, but who do not currently desire a pregnancy, and developing effective interventions.
Health and Disease across the Lifespan
Gap: There are several models of how positive and negative exposures affect health and development across the lifespan, but there is limited research on critical periods, identifying which exposures are critical, and the additive and interactive effects of these exposures.
Priority: Support research evaluating whether the effects of early exposures (negative and positive) are cumulative over time, whether these exposures interact with each other, whether there are critical periods (periods during which both negative and positive exposures have substantially greater effects), whether effects of exposures are reversible, and whether exposures early in life increase or decrease sensitivity to future exposures later in life.
Gaps: Rigorous treatment of interactions between genes and the external environment is frequently lacking in the current body of research.
Priority: Research the effects of environmental exposures on complex phenotypes and how these effects are moderated and mediated by genetic polymorphisms. Environmental exposures include not only the physical environment, but also exposures caused by the social, economic, and policy environments. A focus on non-truncated measures of the environment and an emphasis on the effects of polymorphisms associated with one or more genes, directly or in interaction with each other, are encouraged.
- In 2011, 45 percent of U.S. pregnancies were unintended (Finder and Zolna 2016), a substantially higher proportion than in Western Europe (34 percent), Oceania (37 percent), Northern Africa (29 percent), and Western Africa (26 percent). The United States also has a higher adolescent pregnancy rate (41.2% in 2010) than other economically developed countries—Australia 16.5%, Canada 24.0%, Japan 5.0%, and the United Kingdom 29.6% (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2013, pp. 73-74; Dorroch et al. 2001; United Nations Development Programme 2011).
- Among women at risk for unintended pregnancy, 18 percent use no contraception or stop using contraception for a month or more; they account for 54 percent of all unintended pregnancies. Another 19 percent use contraception incorrectly or inconsistently; they account for 41 percent of unintended pregnancies (Guttmacher Institute 2016).
- Adoption and Kinship Program: Studies adoption and kinship as components of population dynamics and adoption as a population-level phenomenon
- Biopsychosocial Program: Examines integration of social science, behavioral, and biomedical approaches to understanding health
- Data Sharing Program: Includes documenting, archiving, and disseminating data within the scope of branch-supported projects
- Demography of Health Program: Includes population-representative studies of the interrelations between demographic processes and health and the health of populations
- Family Demography and Intergenerational Research Program: Studies relations between family processes and structure and the health, development, and productivity of the family
- Fertility and Infertility Program: Examines social, institutional, economic, and cultural contexts and processes that influence the quantity, timing, and circumstances of childbearing
- Life Course Health Program: Examines trajectories of health and mortality from pre-pregnancy through the reproductive years and transgenerational influences on health
- Population Composition Program: Studies economic, social, and demographic factors affecting the racial and ethnic composition of the United States and effects of racial and ethnic diversity on population health and health disparities
- Population Economics Program: Encourages research in population, behavioral, and health economics
- Population Mobility and Spatial Demography Program: Investigates population mobility and its consequences, and spatial dimensions of health and population change
- Social and Behavioral Research on Reproductive Health Program: Encompasses social and behavioral research on all aspects of reproductive health, including interventions designed to improve reproductive health
- Data Sharing for Demographic Research (DSDR): Offers infrastructure to facilitate data sharing while maintaining respondent confidentiality
- Global Partnerships for Social Science and Behavioral Research on HIV/AIDS: Aims to strengthen social and behavioral sciences research on HIV/AIDS in developing countries
- Population Dynamics Research Infrastructure Program: Aims to increase research impact, innovation, and productivity; develop junior scientists; and maximize the efficiency of research support
- Population Dynamics Scientist Development Award Program: Funds career development for junior-level researchers in population dynamics
- Population Research Programs for New Investigators: Includes training and career development programs for new investigators and scientists
- Work, Family, Health, and Well-Being Initiative: Examines the effects of workplace policies and practices related to work-family conflict on the health and well-being of workers, their families, and the organization/workplace
- Association of Population Centers
- Data Sharing for Demographic Research
- Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics
- Population Association of America
- Population Reference Bureau
- Trans-NIH Strategic Plan for Women’s Health Research: This 5-year plan highlights a multipronged pathway to advance a vision in which sex and gender influences are integrated into the biomedical research enterprise; every woman receives evidence-based disease prevention and treatment tailored to her own needs, circumstances, and goals; and women in science careers reach their full potential
- Rebecca Clark, Branch Chief
Main Research Areas: Data: data sharing and big data; gene x environment, epigenetics, biomarkers (behavioral); life course health: developmental origins and early; predictors of health; migration & immigration, spatial demography, and GIS; training in population dynamics/demography (institutional); centers: research infrastructure for population dynamics/demography; and reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS (behavioral)
- Regina Bures, Program Staff
Main Research Areas: Data: data sharing and big data; family demography, nuptiality: statistical analysis and trends; health economics, population economics, economic demography; life course health: developmental origins and early predictors of health; migration & immigration, spatial demography, and GIS; training in population dynamics/demography (institutional)
- Juanita Chinn, Program Director
Main Research Areas: Population composition: race & ethnicity, SES, educational attainment, age, and sex; statistical analysis and trends; population health: demography of health and the health of populations
- Rosalind King, Health Scientist Administrator and Associate Director for Prevention Research
Main Research Areas: Adoption; fertility: statistical analysis of pregnancies and births, trends; gene-environment, epigenetics, biomarkers (behavioral); infertility: statistical analysis and trends; life course health: developmental origins and early predictors of health; reproductive health, STIs including HIV/AIDS (behavioral); career development in population dynamics/demography (individual); centers: research infrastructure for population dynamics/demography
- Ronna Popkin, Health Specialist
Main Research Areas: Sexual and reproductive health: contraception, STIs including HIV/AIDS (behavioral), and public health interventions and programs; sexual behavior; fertility: trends and statistical analyses of pregnancies and births; sex and gender minority health (statistical analyses or behavioral); qualitative research methods