Michael J. White is the Robert E. Turner Distinguished Professor of Population Studies at Brown University, where he is also Professor of Sociology and current Director of the initiative in Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences. Mike joined Brown in 1989 and he served as Chair of the Sociology Department twice (1997-2000; 2001-2004) and as director of the Population Studies and Training Center from 2006-2011. In 2014, White was named as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is Honorary Research Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, on the advisory board of the Asian Demographic Research Institute, and serves on the editorial board of the journal Demography.
After graduating Harvard magna cum laude with a BA in urban studies, Mike went to University of Chicago for his graduate work. He was always interested in urban issues and particularly in the Chicago School approach. He studied with Donald Bogue, and although his dissertation research was focused on urban renewal in the U.S. context, it was under Bogue’s influence that he took his first overseas research trip and began his lifelong practice of conducting research in both the U.S. and in other countries. He has conducted research in a variety of international settings, including China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Italy, Kenya, South Africa, and Vietnam.
Completing his PhD at Chicago in 1980, Mike then taught at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and was a Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute in Washington DC. His research has always been engaged with issues having relevance to public policy. He joined Brown University in 1989. Mike’s areas of interest span demography and urban sociology with a particular interest in topics pertinent to public policy. Much of his research is unified by a concern for population distribution and migration: processes of movement, settlement, and adjustment. He has held a series of external grant awards from NIH, NSF, and private foundations.
Current projects include studies of the assimilation of the second generation in the U.S.; rural-urban migration, environment, and health in South Africa; and the measurement of spatial inequality in developing countries. Mike’s research on migration, urbanization, and segregation has always been innovative, policy relevant, and published in top journals. He recently edited the Springer Handbook on International Migration and Population Distribution. Another recent book, Achieving Anew: How New Immigrants Do in American Schools, Jobs, and Neighborhoods, co-authored with his former postdoc, Professor Jennifer Glick, won the 2010 Otis Dudley Duncan Award of the American Sociological Association for Outstanding Scholarship in Social Demography.
Mike is always ready and willing to serve his profession when called. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Population Association of America and on the scientific panels and advisory committees for a number of organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, the U.S. National Academies, and the INDEPTH network of demographic surveillance centers. He regularly teaches graduate demography, statistics, migration, and research methods courses, and he is beloved by undergraduates at Brown for his seminal course on U.S. civics: American Heritage: Democracy, Inequality, and Public Policy.
Mike and his wife Jane Desforges enjoy cycling and spending time at the beach, especially around the lovely state of Rhode Island. Mike is also known for his vast knowledge of Brown University and Rhode Island history and trivia, and he always steers newcomers to Brown to the best clam shacks, encouraging them to try the local specialties of stuffies or clam cakes. Mike is also an intrepid global traveler and is always ready to try the local beer and whatever is on the menu.
Mike has been an incredible colleague, mentor and friend to so many. His impact on our field has been impressive through his research, teaching, collaboration and mentorship. He has trained many students and postdoctoral scholars who came to study demography at Brown. Mike’s global research agenda, especially in the U.S., Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia means that he has student and postdoc alums all around the world.