Population Studies

Academic Year 2023 – 2024

General Information

Wallace Hall

Program Offerings:

  • Ph.D.
  • Certificate

Affiliated departments:

Director of Graduate Studies:

Graduate Program Administrator:


The Office of Population Research (OPR), founded in 1936, is the demographic research and graduate training center at Princeton University. The field encompasses a wide range of specializations that span substantive and methodological subjects in the social, mathematical, and biological sciences. Building on its historical strengths in signature fields such as demographic methods, fertility, health and mortality, OPR researchers have embraced fields that are currently prominent in population studies, such as international migration and development, children, youth and families, biosocial interactions, health and wellbeing, poverty and inequality, as well as various aspects of social and economic inequality. In addition, OPR researchers are involved in new fields of inquiry such as epigenetics, biodemography, social epidemiology, and web-based experimentation.

The graduate training program in population studies offers four types of certification. First, the Program in Population Studies (PIPS) offers a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in demography that is designed for students who wish to specialize in the core substantive topics and technical methods.

Second, students may obtain a joint degree in Demography and Social Policy (PIPS/JDP) via a collaborative training program through the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. The Joint Degree Program (JDP) in Social Policy includes the Departments of Politics, Psychology, Sociology, and Population Studies. Students interested in the joint degree in Demography and Social Policy (PIPS/JDP) can apply to be admitted to the joint degree program by choosing this option in their initial application from to the Graduate School. The JDP follows a “discipline-plus” structure in which all students complete a Ph.D. in a basic social science, and also study economic insecurity and inequality in advanced postindustrial societies and the developing world. Students can also be admitted to PIPS/JDP after their first or second year of graduate study with the permission of the director of graduate studies for the Program in Population Studies.

Third, the program offers a general examination in demography that is accepted by the Department of Sociology as partial fulfillment of their Ph.D. degree requirements. Students from Sociology who elect to specialize in population studies write their dissertation on a demographic subject under the supervision of core faculty in population studies.

Fourth, the program offers a non-degree Certificate in Demography to those who successfully complete four graduate courses in population studies: POP 501/SOC 531, POP 502/SOC 532, and two elective courses pertaining to some aspect of population (approved by the director of graduate studies for the Program in Population Studies). The certificate program is intended primarily for training scholars from other disciplines and does not lead to an advanced degree at Princeton.


Application deadline
December 1, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (This deadline is for applications for enrollment beginning in fall 2024)
Program length
5 years
General Test - required

Additional departmental requirements

Sample of written work recommended, 25 page maximum.


Program Offerings

Program Offering: Ph.D.


All PIPS students are required to complete the following:

  • POP 501/SOC 531 – Survey of Population Problems
  • POP 502/SOC 532 – Research Methods in Demography
  • POP 503 - Evaluation of Demographic Research
  • An approved Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) course
  • Statistics sequence (Year 1, two full-semester courses)
  • Population courses (four full-semester courses). Students in the PIPS/JDP program take a sequence of half-semester courses on inequality and social policy to partially fulfill this requirement.

Additional pre-generals requirements

Students are required to complete one publishable empirical paper by the end of year two of their training program.  Additionally, attendance at the Tuesday afternoon Notestein Seminar Series is required during all five years of study.

General exam

The general examination consists of three separate examinations, usually taken during the course of the first two years of study, in which the student must demonstrate proficiency in basic demographic theory and methods as well as proficiency in two additional fields of concentration which could include: economic demography, family demography, fertility/fecundity, health, social epidemiology, reproductive epidemiology, historical demography, mathematical/statistical demography, migration/immigration, mortality, population and development, population and environment, population policy, poverty/child wellbeing, and urbanization, among others. In the first year, students are required to take the demography general exam that covers theory, substance and research methods. During the second year, and in no case later than October of the third year, students are required to complete the two additional field exams on topics approved by the director of graduate studies (DGS) in OPR. Students in the joint policy and population program (PIPS/JDP) take one of these exams in social inequality.

Qualifying for the M.A.

The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after a student successfully passes the general examination. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that candidacy requirements (including passing the general examination) have been satisfied.


All graduate students are required to assist in teaching for a total of six AI (Assistant in Instruction) hours, for either undergraduate- or graduate-level courses. Courses must be approved by the DGS of Population Studies.

Post-Generals requirements

Students are required to give a Notestein Seminar presentation based on their research during their last year in the program.

Dissertation and FPO

A dissertation prospectus, which includes an oral hearing, must be completed by September 30 of year four. The oral hearing for the prospectus involves the three core members of the dissertation committee. Students who have successfully completed the required general exams, had a dissertation prospectus approved, and fulfilled all other department degree requirements, will submit a dissertation based on original research. This research is supervised by a committee of at least three faculty members, including at least one demography faculty who will serve as either chair or co-chair of the committee. Departmental acceptance of the dissertation qualifies the candidate for the final public oral (FPO) examination.

The FPO is a final examination in the student’s field of study as well as a defense of the dissertation and may be held after the review and acceptance of the reader reports and substantiation that all other requirements have been met. The FPO is largely based on the dissertation, but also can extend to other topics in population studies to confirm the candidate’s readiness for a career in demography.

There are at least three principal examiners at the FPO, all of them normally members of the Princeton faculty at the rank of assistant professor or higher. At least two of the examiners have not been principal readers of the dissertation, and either the chair or a co-chair must be a core demography faculty member.

Program Offering: Certificate

This certificate does not appear on transcripts.

Program description

The Office of Population Research offers a non-degree Certificate in Demography to those who successfully complete four graduate courses in population studies: POP 501/SOC 531/, POP 502/SOC 532, two elective courses pertaining to some aspect of population. The certificate program is intended primarily for training scholars from other disciplines and does not lead to an advanced degree at Princeton.

Students cannot be admitted to Princeton University through the Certificate in Demography Program since it is not a degree program. The certificate does not appear on the official transcript.


Students must successfully complete four graduate courses in population studies: POP 501/SOC 531, and POP 502/SOC 532, and two additional elective courses pertaining to some aspect of population. The first two are the basic graduate courses in demography; POP 501 is offered in the fall semester and is a prerequisite for POP 502, which is offered in the spring semester. The two electives must be approved by the director of graduate studies.

Permanent Courses

Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.

POP 501 - Survey of Population Problems (also SOC 531)

Survey of past and current trends in the growth of the population of the world and of selected regions. Analysis of the components of growth and their determinants. The social and economic consequences of population change.

POP 502 - Research Methods in Demography (also SOC 532)

Source materials used in the study of population; standard procedures for the measurement of fertility, mortality, natural increase, migration, and nuptiality; and uses of model life tables and stable population analysis and other techniques of estimation when faced with inaccurate or incomplete data are studied. Prerequisite: 571 or instructor's permission.

POP 503 - Evaluation of Demographic Research

A course designed for doctoral students who have some experience in demographic methods and research. One objective of the course is to examine critically how researchers, including well-established demographers and students, tackle demographic research questions. A second, related goal is to explore the construction of a dissertation and a research paper.

POP 507 - Generalized Linear Statistical Models (also SPI 509)

The analysis of survey data using generalized linear statistical models. The course begins with a review of linear models for continuous responses and then considers logistic regression models for binary data and log-linear models for count data, including rates and contingency tables and hazard models for duration data. Attention is given to the logical and mathematical foundations of the techniques, but the main emphasis is on the applications, including computer usage. The course assumes prior exposure to statistics at the level of WWS507c and familiarity with matrix algebra and calculus.

POP 509 - Survival Analysis (Half-Term)

Course focuses on statistical analysis of time-to-event or survival data and introduces hazard and survival functions, censoring mechanisms, parametric and non-parametric estimation, and comparison of survival curves; covers continuous and discrete-time regression models with emphasis on Cox's proportional hazards model and partial likelihood estimation; discusses competing risk models, unobserved heterogeneity, and multivariate survival models including event history analysis. Course emphasizes basic concepts and techniques as well as social science applications. Half-term course, offered in first half of the spring term. Prerequisite: WWS5

POP 510 - Multilevel Models (Half-Term)

An introduction to statistical methods for the analysis of multilevel data, such as data on children, families, and neighborhoods. Reviews fixed- and random-effects models for clustered and longitudinal data. Presents multilevel random-intercept and random-slopes models, discussing model fitting and interpretation, centering and estimation of cross-level interactions, and extensions to binary and count data using maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods. Course emphasizes practical applications using the multilevel package MLwiN. Half-term course, offered second half of spring term. Prerequisite: WWS509 or equivalent.

SPI 564 - Poverty, Inequality and Health in the World (also POP 564)

About well-being throughout the world, with focus on income and health. Explores what happened to poverty, inequality, and health, in the US, and internationally. Discusses conceptual foundations of national and global measures of inequality, poverty, and health; construction of measures, and extent to which they can be trusted; relationship between globalization, poverty, and health, historically and currently. Examines links between health and income, why poor people are less healthy and live less long than rich people. Prereqs: 507 and 511. Please see instructor to apply for enrollment.

SPI 565 - Social Determinants of Health (also POP 565/SOC 565)

Course examines how and why society can make us sick or healthy and how gender, race/ethnicity, wealth, education, occupation and other social statuses shape health outcomes. It looks at the role of social institutions, and environment-society interactions in shaping health outcomes and examines how these factors underlie some of the major causes of illness and death around the world including infant mortality, infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. The course draws on historical and cross-cultural material from the U.S. as well as global examples from different countries around the world.

SPI 566A - Topics in Health (also POP 566)

This series covers a range of important topics in global health policy, focusing on policy responses to current challenges. These provide a more in-depth study of particular issues, such as health financing, mental health, or the role of technology in healthcare.

SPI 593R - Topics in Policy Analysis (Half-Term) (also POP 593R)

These courses focus on the analysis of a variety of policy issues. Students can mix and match half-term courses, either within or across terms, choosing a combination of two that best suits their interests. Two half-term courses are equivalent to one full-term course.

SPI 594C - Topics in Policy Analysis (Half-Term) (also POP 594C)

These courses focus on the analysis of a variety of policy issues. Students can mix and match half-term courses, either within or across terms, choosing a combination of two that best suits their interests. Two half-term courses are the equivalent of one full-term course. Fall term courses are numnbered 593; Spring term courses are numbered 594. Courses with alternating letters beginning with "a" will be offered in the first half of the term, courses with alternating letters beginning with "b" will be offered in the second half of the term.

SPI 594T - Topics in Policy Analysis (Half-Term) (also POP 594T)

Course examines their political systems in a comparative framework, comparing them both among themselves and with other developing countries, drawing on various approaches of political sociology and, in particular, political economy. Course will start with a review of ¿State formation and state-society relations in the Gulf: what is Gulf politics?¿ and conclude with a session on "Implications for US foreign policy."

SPI 598 - Epidemiology (also POP 508)

Measurement of health status, illness occurrence, mortality and impact of associated risk factors; techniques for design, analysis and interpretation of epidemiologic research studies; sources of bias and confounding; and causal inference. Other topics include foundations of modern epidemiology, the epidemiologic transition, reemergence of infectious disease, social inequalities in health, and ethical issues. Course examines bridging of "individual-centered" epidemiology and "macro-epidemiology" to recognize social, economic and cultural context, assess impacts on populations, and provide inputs for public health and health policy.