Peter Brandon

Peter Brandon, a sociology professor from The University at Albany, New York, and winner of a Tocqueville-Fulbright Distinguished Chair Award, whom INED is hosting until the end of February 2024, has answered our questions.

(Interview conducted in December 2023)

What research subject(s) are you working on in the United States?

The research that I am working on in the United States relates cross-national comparisons of the political economy of maternal mortality.  A review of the literature indicates that there has been insufficient attention paid to the macro-, for example the social and economic structures related to maternal health and well-being.  

I also work on LGBTQ+ issues. I am currently researching indicators of increased economic mobility, expanded social inclusion, and greater access to government services for LGBTQ+ couples.

Lastly, right now I am also working on the economic organization and social arrangements within and across multigeneration households. It is important to understand better these facets of these households because these households are commonly more vulnerable to time poverty, income loss, and financial stress.  

I guess I work on many different topics but those are the ones on which I am currently focused. However, I am keen to begin work that examines intergeneration mobility and emigration among those who were enslaved by the English in the Caribbean in the 19th century. This is new work with a historian who has done a magnificent job tracking Caribbean families who were enslaved and then freed.

The overarching theme of my demographic work is monitoring and understanding the causes and consequences of economic and social vulnerability within and across population groups. I find it a worthwhile and ongoing challenge to ensure that I am defining and measuring these groups and various social phenomena as well as possible. It would be nice if the work could claim that it is representative of the populations I am studying. 

I have been at The University at Albany-the State University of New York for eleven years now. Apart from my research, I also teach undergraduate and graduate students. And we have a demographic research center at the university called the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis which I am affiliated with. And, I was the recent chair of the Department of Sociology, but happy to turn over the reins to another colleague. 

What research projects will you be working on during your months in France at INED? Are those projects directly related to your research in the United States?

The project that I will be working on here is the political economy of maternal mortality. There have been important and vital epidemiological studies and medical studies of maternal mortality. But in these studies, potential associations and links between maternal mortality and societies’ economic and social structures have been far less investigated, nor have there been sufficient studies comparing the US with other OECD countries such as France. So, my project examines both French and American maternal mortality rates in the context of political and economic structures. 

I am hoping between now and the end of February 2024, I can meet with INED researchers and students, learn about their research, and examine the possibilities of collaborative projects. As well, I hope to meet with students who have similar interests to mine and assess if there is related work in the US. I am planning to present some of my work at other places in France. Lastly, I want to have a working facility in French, which is a goal of mine. 

The Tocqueville-Fulbright Distinguished Chair Award is important for me personally because Tocqueville had a huge influence on my understanding of the United States, and he also wrote on economic inequality and dependency and prescriptions for the amelioration of both. Yes, indeed this Frenchman had a huge influence on my career.  I look forward to learning more about France while here, particularly its leadership on today’s many population challenges.