For Philip Morgan, the director of the Carolina Population Center, the United States is the most exciting place to research right now.
Morgan studies human fertility and the factors that explain variations in fertility patterns. He says the United States is interesting because of the variance in people’s understanding of what family is and how many kids it’s appropriate to have.
“The red state/blue state difference in the United States corresponds with a sharp fertility difference,” Morgan says. “The reddest states have high fertility. The bluest states have low fertility.”
Morgan studies this and oversees other population research at the Carolina Population Center, which has 63 fellows. The center researches the processes that produce a population, such as fertility, immigration, disease and mortality.
Morgan became director in July. Before that, he had been at Duke University’s Social Science Research Institute. Morgan received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Carolina and was a postdoctoral scholar at the Carolina Population Center. He became interested in studying fertility during the population explosion in the 1970s because he wanted to understand the roots of high and low fertility.
His research now focuses on low fertility because fertility is dropping around the world.
“There are very few places now where women are having lots of babies. So a new focus is on why women are having so few babies, and by ‘so few,’ I mean having fewer than two children,” Morgan says. “When you have a low fertility rate, you get an aging population, and if it continues you’ll eventually get a declining population.”
As for what he likes best about the area, Morgan says he loves the great restaurants in Durham and the smallness of Chapel Hill, but he doesn’t think of the two as different places.
“When I’m recruiting students here at UNC, I use the same strategy I did at Duke: I tell them these are both great universities, and they’re also eight miles apart and there’s a bus that goes between them every 30 minutes,” Morgan says. “Where else in the world can you find that?”
Published November 19, 2012.