The Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies was founded in 1964 by the Harvard School of Public Health (now the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) Dean Jack Snyder and Roger Revelle (the first director of the Center) with a mandate to address issues of population control. Since then, this University-wide center has expanded its focus and pursued policy questions involving population, resources, health, and the environment, mainly in the context of developing countries.
Over the years, the Center’s intellectual concerns have evolved, in broad strokes by decades, to address the following themes:
1960s: Population growth, water resources, reproductive biology
1970s: Population and resources; migration
1980s: Health transitions in developing countries
1990s: Reproductive health, common security, and the global burden of disease
Early 2000s: Well-being of the global poor; health in Africa
2008-present : Social and environment determinants of population health; immigration; aging societies; and health effects of workplace policies, especially as they pertain to women
As we move along in this new millennium, the “population question” has continued to evolve, as have the tools for population studies. The Center continues to address this evolution through the substantive intellectual issues that engage our affiliates, and the methodological approaches employed in research. As our history illustrates, population studies is a broad subject whose borders are in soft focus. Only through our multi-disciplinary work will we understand the causal and consequential relationships that critically affect human well-being.