Family Demography seminar syllabus


Taipei shopping district / pnc

Here’s my syllabus for Family Demography this semester. Play along at home!

I went for contemporary readings for most subjects, rather than classic readings. I’ll talk about the background myself, and I added an origin/impact analysis assignment, where students dig into the front end of the papers and figure out where they’re coming from – and then follow the citations to see where they went (if they’re not brand new). If I had my stuff together I’d have a better list of background readings as a supplement, but we have comprehensive exam readings lists for that, too. Anyway, we’ll see how that works.

I hope this is useful. Feel free to add your own supplemental readings and suggestions in the comments.


This course is designed to build knowledge on the key theories, empirical patterns, and contemporary debates in the study of family demography, with lesser attention to methodology. (Some students previously took my seminar Families and Modern Social Theory; those who haven’t may find interesting background material in that syllabus:

Students are expected to read assigned material and write a response paper each week, and a summary essay or research report at the end of the semester. In addition, each student will do an origin/impact analysis of one of the assigned readings and make a brief presentation to the class. Evaluation will be based on participation, weekly writings, the presentation, and the final paper.

Universal learning

The principle of universal learning means that our classroom and our interactions be as inclusive as possible. Your success in this class is important to me. If there are circumstances that may affect your performance in this class, please let me know as soon as possible so that we can work together to meet both your needs and the requirements of the course. Students with particular needs should contact the UMD Disability Support Service (, which will forward the necessary information to me. Please do it now instead of waiting till late in the semester.


Academic integrity. Students must be familiar with the UMD Code of Academic Integrity ( In this course there is zero tolerance for academic dishonesty.

Classroom conduct. Students should not come to class late, as this creates a distraction for those who are participating. If your schedule regularly does not permit you to be in class from beginning to end, do not take the course. Students who need to leave early should sit at the back and leave quietly. Students may not use laptops, tablet computers, or mobile phones in class. If you have a need for keeping your phone handy in class notify the professor in advance for an exception.

Discussion. We will discuss course readings and related material, as well as current events, social issues, and politics. Everyone is free to express personal opinions and disagree with others, including the professor – just raise your hand. All discussion must be polite and respectful, and differences of opinion are tolerated. The professor will work to ensure the classroom is a safe space for all of use to participate freely. Please let me know if you have any concerns or suggestions for accomplishing this.


January 31

Theoretical perspectives in demography

Samek, Diana, Bibiana D. Koh, and Martha A. Rueter. 2013. “Overview of Behavioral Genetics Research for Family Researchers.” Journal of Family Theory & Review 5 (3): 214–33. doi:10.1111/jftr.12013.

Ferree, Myra Marx. 2010. “Filling the Glass: Gender Perspectives on Families.” Journal of Marriage and Family 72(3):420-439.

Elder, Glen H., Jr. 1998. “The Life Course as Developmental Theory.” Child Development 69(1):1-12.

February 7

Demographic transition

Kirk, D. 1996. “Demographic Transition Theory.” Population Studies 50 (3): 361-.

Thornton, Arland. 2001. “The Developmental Paradigm, Reading History Sideways, and Family Change.” Demography 38 (4): 449–65. doi:10.2307/3088311

Balbo, Nicoletta, Francesco C. Billari, and Melinda Mills. 2013. “Fertility in Advanced Societies: A Review of Research.” European Journal of Population 29 (1): 1–38. doi:10.1007/s10680-012-9277-y.

Feng, Wang. 2011. “The Future of a Demographic Overachiever: Long-Term Implications of the Demographic Transition in China.” Population and Development Review 37: 173–90.

February 14

Fertility in poor countries

Yount, Kathryn M., Sarah Zureick-Brown, Nafisa Halim, and Kayla LaVilla. 2014. “Fertility Decline, Girls’ Well-Being, and Gender Gaps in Children’s Well-Being in Poor Countries.” Demography 51 (2): 535–61. doi:10.1007/s13524-014-0282-0.

Feng, Wang, Baochang Gu, and Yong Cai. 2016. “The End of China’s One-Child Policy.” Studies in Family Planning 47 (1): 83–86. doi:10.1111/j.1728-4465.2016.00052.x.

Kravdal, Oystein. 2012. “Further Evidence of Community Education Effects on Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Demographic Research 27 (November): 646–. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2012.27.22.

Bongaarts, John, and Christophe Z. Guilmoto. 2015. “How Many More Missing Women? Excess Female Mortality and Prenatal Sex Selection, 1970–2050.” Population and Development Review 41 (2): 241–69. doi:10.1111/j.1728-4457.2015.00046.x.

February 21

Second demographic transition

Geist, Claudia. 2017. “Marriage Formation in Context: Four Decades in Comparative Perspective.” Social Sciences 6 (1): 9. doi:10.3390/socsci6010009.

Lesthaeghe, Ron. 2010. “The Unfolding Story of the Second Demographic Transition.” Population and Development Review 36 (2): 211-.

Goldscheider, Frances, Eva Bernhardt, and Trude Lappegard. 2015. “The Gender Revolution: A Framework for Understanding Changing Family and Demographic Behavior.” Population and Development Review 41 (2): 207–+. doi:10.1111/j.1728-4457.2015.00045.x.

Cohen, Philip N. 2011. “Homogamy Unmodified.” Journal of Family Theory & Review 3 (1): 47–51.

February 28

U.S. History

Ruggles. Steven. 2015. “Patriarchy, Power, and Pay: The Transformation of American Families, 1800-2015.” Demography 52: 1797-1823. (His lecture version at PAA.)

Cherlin, Andrew J. 2004. “The Deinstitutionalization of American Marriage.” Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (4): 848–61.

Ruggles, Steven. 2007. “The Decline of Intergenerational Coresidence in the United States, 1850 to 2000.” American Sociological Review 72 (6): 964–89. doi:10.1177/000312240707200606.

Cohen, Philip N. 2014. The Family: Diversity, Inequality, and Social Change. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Chapter 2, “History.”

March 7

Marriage and social class

Cherlin, Andrew J. 2014. Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Cohen, Philip N. 2014. The Family: Diversity, Inequality, and Social Change. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Chapter 8, “Marriage and cohabitation.”

March 14

Fatherhood: race, class, and multiple-partner fertility

Edin, Kathryn and Timothy Nelson. 2013. Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City. University of California Press.

March 21

Spring break

March 28

Transition to adulthood

Crosnoe, Robert, and Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson. 2011. “Research on Adolescence in the Twenty-First Century.” Annual Review of Sociology 37:439–60.

Dow, Dawn Marie. 2016. “The Deadly Challenges of Raising African American Boys: Navigating the Controlling Image of the ‘Thug.’” Gender & Society 30 (2): 161–88. doi:10.1177/0891243216629928.

Billari, Francesco C., and Aart C. Liefbroer. 2010. “Towards a New Pattern of Transition to Adulthood?” Advances in Life Course Research 15 (2–3, SI): 59–75. doi:10.1016/j.alcr.2010.10.003.

Ghimire, D. J., W. G. Axinn, S. T. Yabiku, and A. Thornton. 2006. “Social Change, Premarital Nonfamily Experience, and Spouse Choice in an Arranged Marriage Society.” American Journal of Sociology 111 (4): 1181–1218.

April 11

Economic conditions and family outcomes

Sweeney, Megan M., and R. Kelly Raley. 2014. “Race, Ethnicity, and the Changing Context of Childbearing in the United States.” Annual Review of Sociology 40:539–58.

Currie, Janet, and Hannes Schwandt. 2014. “Short- and Long-Term Effects of Unemployment on Fertility.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (41): 14734–39. doi:10.1073/pnas.1408975111.

Schneider, Daniel, Kristen Harknett, and Sara McLanahan. 2016. “Intimate Partner Violence in the Great Recession.” Demography 53 (2): 471–505. doi:10.1007/s13524-016-0462-1.

April 18

Policy, race, and nonmarital births

England, Paula. 2016. “Sometimes the Social Becomes Personal: Gender, Class, and Sexualities.” American Sociological Review 81 (1): 4–28.

Cohen, Philip N. 2015. “Maternal Age and Infant Mortality for White, Black, and Mexican Mothers in the United States.” Sociological Science 3 (January): 32–38.

Geronimus, Arline T. 2003. “Damned If You Do: Culture, Identity, Privilege, and Teenage Childbearing in the United States.” Social Science & Medicine 57 (5): 881–93.

Cohen, Philip N. Forthcoming. Enduring Bonds: Families and Modern Inequality, Chapter: “Marriage promotion [Excerpts]” 24pp. [to be provided]

April 25

More U.S. inequality issues

Musick, Kelly, and Robert D. Mare. 2006. “Recent Trends in the Inheritance of Poverty and Family Structure.” Social Science Research 35 (2): 471–99. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2004.11.006.

Western, Bruce, and Christopher Wildeman. 2009. “The Black Family and Mass Incarceration.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 621 (1): 221–242.

Two selections from Families in an Era of Increasing Inequality (2015) edited by Paul R. Amato, Alan Booth, Susan M. McHale, and Jennifer Van Hook, 3–23. National Symposium on Family Issues 5. Springer International Publishing.

McLanahan, Sara, and Wade Jacobsen. “Diverging Destinies Revisited.”

Cohen, Philip N. 2015. “Divergent Responses to Family Inequality.”

May 2

Family structure and child wellbeing

Regnerus, Mark. 2012. “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.” Social Science Research 41 (4): 752–70. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.03.009.

Rosenfeld, Michael J. 2015. “Revisiting the Data from the New Family Structure Study: Taking Family Instability into Account.” Sociological Science 2 (September): 478–501. doi:10.15195/v2.a23.

Cohen, Philip N. Forthcoming. Enduring Bonds: Families and Modern Inequality, Chapter: “Marriage equality in social science and the courts.” 19pp. [to be provided]

Gates, Gary J. 2015. “Marriage and Family: LGBT Individuals and Same-Sex Couples.” Future of Children 25(2):67-87.

May 9

Divorce, Remarriage and Stepfamilies

Amato, Paul R. 2010. “Research on Divorce: Continuing Trends and New Developments.” Journal of Marriage and Family 72(3):650-666.

Kennedy, Sheela, and Steven Ruggles. 2014. “Breaking Up Is Hard to Count: The Rise of Divorce in the United States, 1980–2010.” Demography 51 (2): 587–98. doi:10.1007/s13524-013-0270-9.

Cohen, Philip N. 2014. “Recession and Divorce in the United States, 2008–2011.” Population Research and Policy Review 33 (5): 615–28. doi:10.1007/s11113-014-9323-z.

Anderson, Lydia R. 2016. “Divorce Rate in the U.S.: Geographic Variation, 2015.” National Center for Marriage and Family Research.

Cohen, Philip N. 2016. “Life Table Says Divorce Rate Is 52.7%.” Family Inequality. June 8.

Bennett, Neil G. 2017. “A Reflection on the Changing Dynamics of Union Formation and Dissolution.” Demographic Research 36 (12): 371–90. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2017.36.12.



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3 responses to “Family Demography seminar syllabus

  1. Dwight Davis

    Prof Cohen, this is a syllabus for a graduate seminar, I assume, given its depth of readings and topics? Do you teach a version of this for an undergrad audience? Do you find that certain topics play well or, conversely, not well with the undergrads? My guess would be that the early weeks topics (up through Feb 28) on theory, the demographic transition, and U.S. history would be harder to get undergrads to appreciate.


    • I never taught demography for undergrads, so I don’t know.


      • Dwight Davis

        Yes, it probably wouldn’t be too popular. I think I have seen an occasional course entitled ‘family sociology’ for undergrads but even that is probably not that common. I do think there are topics here that are very relevant for undergrads and could help bring them into sociology. I have not, however, figured out how to approach it. Anyway, thanks for the response


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