Alberto Palloni, PhD
Samuel Preston Professor of Population
Center for Demography and Ecology
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Alberto Palloni is the Samuel Preston Professor of Sociology at University of Wisconsin. He served on the PAA board of directors from 1996 to 1999, was vice president in 2004 and president in 2006. He is known for his research contributions in the areas of health, morbidity and mortality, indirect techniques for demographic estimation, demographic models for HIV/AIDS, aging in developing countries in general and Latin American in particular, fertility and family demography and, more recently, the relation between early childhood health and adult health, mortality and social stratification. He is currently working on a number of projects, including new methods for data matching, new procedures for adjusting imperfect mortality and fertility data, extensions of the work began in his 2006 Presidential address, new directions for the study of the Hispanic paradox, application of Bayesian statistics for the estimation of maternal mortality and longevity in Latin America. He is currently working on three books: theories of mortality, multistate survival models and a history of the population in Latin American since 1850
Alberto was born in Chile of Italian parents. He received his undergraduate degree from the Catholic University of Chile in 1971. He earned his PhD in 1977 from the University of Washington under the supervision of Samuel Preston, with a dissertation titled, “Estimating Infant and Childhood Mortality from Data on Children Surviving.” Completing graduate school in only four years, his fellow graduate students labeled him a “rate buster,” a moniker which he has sought to uphold ever since.
Alberto’s early work refining the Brass’s method for estimating infant mortality set off his career of innovating demographic estimation techniques. His most widely cited research includes articles on the effect on breast-feeding and inter-birth intervals on infant and child mortality, fertility and mortality decline, and mortality trends in Latin America. By demonstrating the link between public health programs and Latin American mortality declines, his work has had far-reaching policy impacts as well. Currently, he is reconstructing adult mortality patterns for Latin American countries from 1850 onwards. In simultaneously assessing the completeness of death registration and age-specific distortions in observed mortality patterns, this project identifies new patterns of adult and old age mortality to document a century of Latin American mortality decline.
While most of his research has focused on morbidity and mortality, Alberto has dabbled in multiple demographic topics including migration, fertility, marriage, kinship and household structures, criminology, deforestation, economic crises, and humanitarian emergencies. Many of these projects have involved close collaborations with his graduate students and colleagues. In some of his most widely cited collaborative work he has turned his methodological eye on the Hispanic or migrant health paradox which finds that Latin-American origin populations in the U.S. have better health than their native-born counter parts, a counter-intuitive finding given their lower socioeconomic status. His research on selective return migration helps to explain this finding.
Alberto’s presidential address focused on selection mechanisms arising from early childhood experience that are associated with socioeconomic differentials in health and mortality in developed countries. The research agenda he developed combines his concerns with social inequality, demography, and demographic techniques and promises more insights into the study of health inequality.
One of Alberto’s enduring commitments is to train students from developing countries, as well as any students interested in studying those countries. As a result of this commitment, as well as his important policy-relevant research on developing countries, his reputation in the U.S. is matched or even exceeded by his international renown.
Alberto’s achievements have been recognized by his scholarly peers. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1987-88 and a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 1991-92. He was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received a Merit Award from the National Institutes of Health, both in 2005.
Alberto has held professorial positions at the University of Texas (1977-1979), the University of Michigan (1979-80), the University of Chicago (1994-95), and Northwestern University (2007-10) as well as at the Universities of Padova, Florence, Siena and Rome. But he has always returned to the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1980-1994, 1996-2007, 2010-present).