David A. Lam is Professor in the Department of Economics and Research Professor in the Population Studies Center, University of Michigan. He was elected as the 2011 president of the Population Association of America.
David grew up in Durango, Colorado, where he earned a B.A. in Latin American Studies at Ft. Lewis College. An empiricist with a spirit of adventure from an early age, he and his wife Tina spent time during their college years traveling “on a shoestring” in Mexico. David then earned an M.A. in Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin before pursuing graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. There he earned an M.A. in Demography in 1982 and a Ph.D. in Economics in 1983. He received the 1983 Dorothy S. Thomas Award from the PAA for his doctoral research. David has been known to say that his initial interest in demography was inspired in childhood by his grandfather, a florist in Texas, whom David would sometimes accompany on deliveries for births, weddings and funerals.
David joined the faculty at the University of Michigan in 1983. There he has served for many years as coordinator of the program in economic demography, a joint program between the Population Studies Center and the Department of Economics. He was Director of the Population Studies Center from 1994 to 2003 and 2008 to 2010, and he has also served as Director of the Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging. In the Economics Department, David has served as Associate Chair and Director of Graduate Studies. He was elected to serve as the 2011 President of the Population Association of America and previously served as a member of the PAA Board of Directors. David has provided his expertise in economic demography in a number of capacities, including as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Committee on Population and Panel on Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries, as chair of the NSF Oversight Board of the IPUMS-International project, and as advisor, consultant or organizer for the World Bank, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the United Nations Population Division, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, and the South Africa Office of the Presidency.
David Lam is a leading researcher on the economic demography of inequality, especially applied analysis of inequality in developing countries. David’s work explores determinants and implications of inequalities, using both micro and macro economic and demographic theoretical foundations. His research is wide-ranging, including publications in the areas of income and wages, education, unemployment, child labor, fertility, sexual behavior of youth, intergenerational effects of HIV/AIDS, and cohort size in demographic transition. Much of his work has been set in the countries of Brazil and South Africa where he has spent considerable time, including sabbatical years in each as a Fulbright Research Scholar. David is known for building international collaborations as exemplified by his co-authorship with Brazilian and South African scholars, and the key role he has played in the ongoing Cape Area Panel Study (CAPS), a longitudinal study of youth and young adults in metropolitan Cape Town, South Africa. A crucial resource for understanding the evolving social and economic dynamics and the challenges to human development in post-apartheid South Africa, CAPS began in 2002 as a collaboration between the Population Studies Center of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and the Centre for Social Science Research and the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. The study has implemented five waves of data collection to date and encompasses a number of topics including schooling, employment, health, family formation, and intergenerational support systems.
David is also widely recognized for his important contributions to developing new cohorts of economic demographers. Beginning with his first graduate-level economic demography course at the University of Michigan in 1983 and continuing to the present, David has been an excellent teacher and mentor. A quick look at his vitae provides evidence of this, in the large number of publications co-authored with his graduate students. Many of these collaborations began during the co-author’s graduate school days and have continued for years or even decades. Among his students David is known for his wide-ranging intellect, keen insights, high standards and the generosity, respect, integrity and support that characterize his interactions with students and colleagues alike. He and Tina warmly welcome students to their home in Ann Arbor, and inspire a lasting connection among many generations of graduates. David’s contributions to his many former students, as well as to colleagues and the broader population community, are greatly appreciated.