CU Population Center

CU Population Center

The CU Population Center (CUPC), funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development, represents an interdisciplinary community of scholars and professionals engaged in population research and training. Building on the foundation of a distinguished thirty-year-old Population Program within the Institute of Behavioral Science, CUPC affiliates explore demographic processes in the U.S. as well as in a wide variety of international settings. Areas of particular research interest are Environmental Demography, Migration and Population Distribution, and Health and Mortality.

Research Findings

Love, Money, and HIV

How do modern women in developing countries experience sexuality and love? Drawing on a rich array of interview, ethnographic, and survey data from her native country of Kenya, Sanyu A. Mojola examines how young African women, who suffer disproportionate rates of HIV infection compared to young African men, navigate their relationships, schooling, employment, and finances in the context of economic inequality and a devastating HIV epidemic. Writing from a unique outsider-insider perspective, Mojola argues that the entanglement of love, money, and the transformation of girls into "consuming women" lies at the heart of women's coming-of-age and health crises. At once engaging and compassionate, this text is an incisive analysis of gender, sexuality, and health in Africa.

—Mojola, Sanyu. (May 2014). Love, Money, and HIV -- Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS. Univ of California Press.

Life course transitions and racial and ethnic differences in smoking prevalence

This study aims to: (1) describe trajectories in the likelihood of smoking by racial or ethnic group across the transition to adulthood, (2) identify the influence of achieved socioeconomic status (SES) and the nature and timing of adult role transitions, and (3) determine the extent to which achieved SES and adult roles mediate the effects of race and ethnicity on smoking. The analyses use U.S. longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which follows a representative national sample over four waves and from ages 11-17 in 1994/95 to 26-34 in 2007/08. Growth curve models compare trajectories of smoking likelihood for white, black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native individuals. While whites have higher rates of smoking than blacks and Hispanics during their teen years and 20s, blacks and Hispanics lose their advantage relative to whites as they approach and enter their 30s. American Indian/Alaska Natives show high rates of smoking at earlier ages and an increasing likelihood to smoke. Although life course transitions are influential for smoking prevalence in the overall U.S. population, SES and the nature and timing of adult role transitions account for little of the gap between whites and black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native individuals. Racial and ethnic disparities in adult smoking are independent of SES and life transitions, pointing to explanations such as culturally specific normative environments or experiences of discrimination.

—Lawrence, Elizabeth M., Fred C. Pampel, Stefanie Mollborn. (2014). Life course transitions and racial and ethnic differences in smoking prevalence. Advances in Life Course Research (online)

Norms as Group-Level Constructs: Investigating School-Level Teen Pregnancy Norms and Behaviors

Social norms are a group-level phenomenon, but past quantitative research has rarely measured them in the aggregate or considered their group-level properties. We used the school-based design of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to measure normative climates regarding teen pregnancy across 75 US high schools. We distinguished between the strength of a school's norm against teen pregnancy and the consensus around that norm. School-level norm strength and dissensus were strongly (r?=?-0.65) and moderately (r?=?0.34) associated with pregnancy prevalence within schools, respectively. Normative climate partially accounted for observed racial differences in school pregnancy prevalence, but norms were a stronger predictor than racial composition. As hypothesized, schools with both a stronger average norm against teen pregnancy and greater consensus around the norm had the lowest pregnancy prevalence. Results highlight the importance of group-level normative processes and of considering the local school environment when designing policies to reduce teen pregnancy.

—Mollborn, S., Domingue, B. W., & Boardman, J. D. (2014). Norms as Group-Level Constructs: Investigating School-Level Teen Pregnancy Norms and Behaviors. Social Forces(online)

Polygyny and HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa

Does polygyny increase the risk of HIV infection? Georges Reniers and Rania Tfaily, using survey data from 20 African countries, note contrasting types of influence. While HIV prevalence is lower in populations with more polygyny, junior wives in polygynous unions are more likely to be HIV positive than those in monogamous relationships. To explain the increased risk of HIV infection for junior wives, their study finds that a disproportionate number of divorced and widowed women who are more likely to be HIV positive are in polygynous unions. To explain lower HIV prevalence in polygynous populations, they show that polygyny is associated with lower coital frequency and a shorter period of sexual activity before marriage. These findings together support the idea that polygynous marriage as a system impedes the spread of HIV.

—Georges Reniers and Rania Tfaily. "Polygyny, Partnership Concurrency, and HIV Transmission in Sub-Saharan Africa." Demography 49 (2012) 1075-1101.

Changing Genetic Influences on Smoking

Are smokers today having a hard time quitting? In an article in Demography, Jason Boardman and colleagues at CUPC argue that the composition of the smoking population has changed in ways that increase the importance of genetic factors in smoking - and perhaps in the difficulty of quitting. Using a sample of 363 identical adult twins and 233 fraternal adult twins from a large population registry, they describe the similarity in the timing of smoking desistance. The results show that identical twin pairs are significantly more likely to quit smoking within a similar time frame compared with fraternal twin pairs. Importantly, the results also reveal the combined influence of genes and environment: Genetic factors for smoking desistance increased in importance following social changes in norms and restrictive legislation on smoking in the early and mid-1970s. With the growing importance of genetic factors for smoking, policies may need to give special attention to helping a population of smokers with strong predispositions to continue.

Jason D. Boardman, Casey L. Blalock, Fred C. Pampel, Peter K. Hatemi, Andrew C. Heath, and Lindon J. Eaves. "Population Composition, Public Policy, and the Genetics of Smoking." Demography 48 (2011) 1517-1533.

Female-headed households contending with AIDS-related hardship in rural South Africa

Female headed households are becoming increasingly common in rural South Africa in part due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We analyze qualitative interviews with 16 female heads and the members of their households in a rural community to examine the response to AIDS-related illness, death, or caring for orphaned children. We find that inter-household social connections are particularly important to female headed household survival in rural South Africa. Those that lack familial support are challenged more by AIDS-related disruptions and rely heavily on government sponsored social support such as child grants.

Enid Schatz, Sangeetha Madhavan, and Jill Williams
Health & Place 17 (2011) 598-605. ~  Article (pdf)