S. Philip Morgan is the Alan Feduccia Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director of the Carolina Population Center at UNC-CH. He is one of the nation’s foremost scholars in social demography. Morgan has made major contributions to the study of fertility, both in the US and developing countries, and of the changing structure of the American family. His work focuses on the ways that structural and cultural factors lead to differences in reproductive regimes across populations, and the ways that social expectations, aspirations, or structural forces become visible in social statistics.
If architecture is frozen music, then fertility statistics become for Philip Morgan a kind of frozen culture, or perhaps culture, interrupted. His numerous publications—primarily in journals like the American Sociological Review, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Demography, American Journal of Sociology, Population and Development Review, European Journal of Population, and Social Forces—are characterized by the ingenious use of formal quantitative methods to address fundamentally social questions. Morgan’s works are not only analytically/substantively important, but they are also quite visible— Google Scholar lists over 10,000 citations to his work.
In 1981 and 1982, Morgan published a set of papers on the uncertainty of reproductive intentions in the US, arguing that if the question is “do you want another child?” then the answer “I don’t know” should be considered an important and distinctive response. The intentional orientation of reproductive action is deeply problematic—childbearing cannot be intentional in a strict sense—yet few scholars have really thought critically about the consequences of this for demographic models of childbearing. This interest in fertility intentions has persisted, reflected in recent articles on the differences in fertility intentions and behavior among U.S. women and men.
In 2011, Morgan received the Distinguished Career Award given by the Sociology of the Family Section, American Sociological Association. Morgan’s family related research includes work on teenage childbearing, marital disruption, and family change and difference. A 1988 paper in the American Journal of Sociology (with Diane Lye and Gretchen Condran) showed that marital disruption was more common when couples had daughters (rather than sons), a difference linked to more involved parenting by fathers in families with sons (see Harris and Morgan 1991). Morgan led a project examining historical racial differences in the family centered on the 1910 U.S. census. This project produces a set of papers published in the 1980s and ‘90s that demonstrated historical continuity in these differences. From 2003-08 Morgan led an NIH contract, Designing New Models for Explaining Family Change and Variation, that involved over 150 family and demographic scholars. The substantive goal of this project was the development and execution of a substantive, interdisciplinary research-based planning process that would produce innovative models for research and data collection that would address the question: what drives family change and variation in the United States? One product of this contract was a book (Understanding Family Change and Variation: Toward a Theory of Conjunctural Action, Johnson-Hanks, Bachrach, Morgan and Kohler); this book received the 2012 Otis Dudley Duncan Award given by ASA Population Section for the year’s outstanding book-length contribution to family research.
Philip Morgan earned his BA at the UNC Chapel Hill where he wrote a senior thesis under the direction of Amos Hawley. His PhD is from the University of Arizona, as one of the first students of Michael Hout and where he benefitted immensely from training by Otis Dudley Duncan. Morgan returned to UNC as Post-Doctoral fellow at the Carolina Population Center. Here he collaborated extensively with Ronald Rindfuss, a collaboration that has continued throughout his career. Morgan spent formative years at the University of Pennsylvania rising through the academic ranks and participating in Penn’s Population Studies Center. He chaired the Penn Sociology Department (1993-96) before moving to Duke in 1998 where he chaired Duke’s Sociology Department (2002-08) and directed Duke’s Social Sciences Research Institute (SSRI, 2008-12). In 2012 Morgan returned to UNC as Director of the Carolina Population Center. Morgan’s research has been consistently supported by the NICHD, and he has been extremely active in NIH review boards, professional organizations and editorial boards. He served as the Chair of the Population Section of the ASA in 1998-99, Editor of the journal Demography from 1998 until 2001 and President of the Population Association of America in 2003.