Current Projects



These are projects that I am currently collaborating on or am doing independently. Please feel free to get in touch via my Bio/Contact page if you are interested in additional information about the content, analyses or findings from any of these projects; or if you are interested in collaborating.


Social Shock, Family Dynamics and Quarantine: The Demographic Case of Sierra Leone


The 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa killed more people than all other known Ebola outbreaks combined. It had an estimated case fatality rate of 70.8% (WHO, 2014). The majority of cases were among people of reproductive age (15-44), and widespread restrictions on the movement and practices of individuals was exerted by governmental and international institutions during the epidemic. The high fatality among people of reproductive age combined with strict institutional mandates designed to contain the outbreak suggest that within affected communities, individual practices around the formation and dissolution of families (such as marriage, adoption, divorce or childbearing) were widely disrupted via mortality and suspension of community norms and practices.

Within the field of demography, a small but powerful subset of studies have demonstrated the important effects that populations have on individual outcomes for women in areas such as marriage, schooling, fertility and savings (Acemoglu, Autor & Lyle, 2004; Angrist 2002; Charles & Luoh, 2010; Goldin & Olivetti, 2013; Wei & Zhang, 2011). These studies typically use massive disruptions to the population, such as conflicts, to estimate the effects on individuals. Through mixed methods research in Sierra Leone, I propose to contribute to the limited evidence on how macro-level phenomena related to populations affect micro-level practices by examining family formation in the wake of the Ebola outbreak. My research asks the question: How do women practice when, where and how to form, dissolve and re-form families in the aftermath of a phenomenon that directly affects the composition and control of a population (the Ebola epidemic)?

I aim to use the embodied and material standpoint of Smith’s “sociology for women” to inform and structure a grounded analysis of key informant interviews with women in Sierra Leone to investigate effects that the Ebola outbreak had on family formation and re-formation following the epidemic. This will allow me to contribute to the understanding of the ways that embodied social phenomena interact with material institutions to limit or support individual’s agency in decision-making about families. In order to guide the qualitative piece of this work, I draw on Sanyu Mojola’s work applying a demographic lens (the “Age-Period-Cohort” framework) to qualitative life history interviews in the South African HIV/AIDS context (Mojola et al.). I will also use demographic techniques to compare women’s expected and actual fertility, marriage, and divorce rates following the Ebola outbreak in high-epidemic vs. low-epidemic areas, while controlling for individual and community effects.


Socioeconomic Disadvantage, Contraceptive Selection and Contraceptive Practice


In this paper, I test whether pre-existing socioeconomic disadvantage is predictive of both contraceptive method choice and contraceptive method practice over the course of a year. If socioeconomic disadvantage is, as I hypothesize, a precursor on the causal pathway to both contraceptive method selection and ongoing contraceptive practice, then its place on the causal pathway from contraceptive use to reducing socioeconomic disadvantage is confounding.

My results offer evidence that contraceptive selection and practice are stratified by pre-existing socioeconomic disadvantage. This suggests that promoting the increase of contraceptive use as a silver bullet to reduce unintended pregnancy and socioeconomic disadvantage treats a symptom (unintended pregnancy) rather than working to eliminate the pre-existing socioeconomic disadvantage that shapes women’s contraceptive use and practices. Not only is this approach an onerous path to walk in logical terms, it also puts the burden of poverty reduction on women’s reproductive bodies. This focus on contraceptive use to reduce poverty attributes social inequalities to the reproductive practices of individuals, and legitimizes regulation of fertility and bodies


Sexual Acceptability and Contraceptive Experience and Practice


Our study, in collaboration with University of Utah HER Salt Lake researchers, asks a number of research questions about how sexuality-related experiences interact with contraceptive use to shape sexual satisfaction, well-being and contraceptive use over time. The HER Salt Lake Study is a unique, longitudinal dataset that offers time-varying panel data to investigate these issues in novel ways.

Our team has developed analyses to identify what sexual-related experiences shape contraceptive uptake at enrollment in the study, and has developed validated sexual-experience related constructs using Item Response Theory (IRT) that have predictive validity for contraceptive-related outcomes.

I am utilizing survival analysis techniques to frame contraceptive use as an intersectional phenomenon—this analysis combines measures of sexual experience, pregnancy intention and indicators of structural constraint to identify the interactional effects of gender, social status and pregnancy intention on contraceptive practices over time. Additionally, I am investigating the benefits of applying Bayesian frameworks to estimating contraceptive method efficacy in the HER Salt Lake sample.


Women’s Schooling and Employment Gains During the Great Mexican Migration Era


This work is in collaboration with Dr. Jenna Nobles (UW-Madison) and Dr. Julieta Pérez Amador. This research examines how the shifting of the gender composition within Mexican communities following the 2008 U.S. economic recession resulted in a reversal and decline in socio-economic, household and political opportunities for women.

We use population data from Mexico and the U.S. for the period spanning 1990-2015 to assess whether women’s long-run socioeconomic gains are maintained across cohorts alongside these population shifts. We find that the post-recession increase in the relative presence of men is associated with cross-cohort reductions in Mexican women’s schooling, employment, and earnings. The findings operate at the community level; that is, the effects of return migration are not limited to women partnered with returning migrants. We find some evidence that changes in family formation contribute to these reductions. The magnitude of post-recession changes are meaningful in relation to the gains attributed to male departure between 1970-2005, raising important questions about the normative persistence of opportunities created for women by the disproportionate absence of men. This work has been presented at the Population Association of America and the Research Committee 28 on Social Stratification and Mobility of the International Sociological Association.



These are projects that I am have collaborated on or have done independently. Please feel free to get in touch via my Bio/Contact page if you are interested in additional information about the content, analyses or findings from any of these projects.

Trends in modern contraceptive use among young adult women (ages 15-24) who have had sex in Sub-Saharan Africa between 1990 and 2014


We explore trends in modern contraceptive usage among young adult women in Sub-Saharan Africa using Demographic Health Survey data from 23 Sub-Saharan countries, We find overall increases in modern contraceptive use among young women ages 15-24 across regions and parity groups (e.g. nulliparous versus parous). In the East/South Africa region, parous women had higher levels of modern contraceptive use than nulliparous women at the onset and larger increases in modern contraceptive use over time.  In the West/Central region nulliparous women had higher levels of modern contraceptive use than parous women at the onset and larger increases in modern contraceptive use over time. Further analyses revealed that most of the increase in modern contraceptive use were driven by increases in short term methods across regions and parity groups.  Only parous women in the South/East region experienced a substantial increase in LARC use, and even then LARC use remained low (around 4%) (Forthcoming in Studies in Family Planning, with Dr. Julia Behrman, Dr. Erica Soler-Hampejsek and Dr. Monica Grant).