Black and white photo of Social Sciences Building with cars driving down the street and students walking on the sidewalk from the 1960s.


Founded in 1962 under the leadership of Norman Ryder, the Center for Demography and Ecology, known then as the Center for Demography and Human Ecology, aimed to facilitate research and training in population studies. Initially, the Center was a separate unit within the sociology department, but, over time, CDE recruited more interdisciplinary scholars from across the university campus. CDE received its first center grant funded by the federal government in 1972 and has received continuous infrastructure support from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development for over 40 years.

The formal training program was initiated in 1964 thanks to a training grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to the sociology department. By the early 1970s, CDE received training funding from the Center for Population Research of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The T32 training program in demography has received nearly continuous NICHD support since 1975. During this time, the training grant has supported 117 predoctoral trainees, many of whom have gone on to high-profile careers in the population sciences. Overall, CDE has produced over 300s PhDs and helped launch the careers of more than 40 postdoctoral fellows.

Early on, CDE leadership, including Larry Bumpass, Halliman “Hal” Winsborough, and James Sweet recognized the importance of machine-readable data in the social sciences and dedicated Center resources and staff to developing robust data resources. Today, the Social Science Computing Cooperative, provides state-of-the art computing and statistical services to all CDE affiliates.

Since its founding, CDE has been a leader in the field of demography, and thanks to its dedicated faculty and staff, generous university and external funding, and robust research agenda, the Center is poised to continue to play a pioneering role in extending population science in new directions.