“My best memories of PSC involve the great friendships that I developed while there. Many of us continue to meet up every year at PAA.”
Zachary S. Zimmer
Senior Scholar, Institute of Public and International Affairs.
Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Utah.
Ph.D. 1998 Sociology, University of Michigan
I am now working in Salt Lake City, which is a place I truly enjoy living in. My wife Tess and I spend a lot of time doing outdoor and wilderness activities in Salt Lake including hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. Besides the two of us, my immediate family includes my bulldog Biscuit, who is now learning to ride a skateboard. For my 50th birthday, which just passed this March, Tess and I travelled to Peru where we hiked the Inca Trail. Photos of this trip are on my facebook page. Despite thousands of miles of past hiking, this was a pinnacle event. In addition, I got a hole in one about a year ago at a local golf course, 185 yards, 7 iron. How many other PSC graduates can claim that one?
On a broad level, my research examines how the interaction of rapid demographic and social change influences the health and other aspects of wellbeing of older persons around the world and particularly in developing societies. The greatest share of my work has taken place in East and Southeast Asia where population aging and socioeconomic change has been swift. Currently, I am working mostly in Cambodia and China – countries where I have several ongoing projects. But, I continue to do some work in other regions including Taiwan, Thailand, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and sub-Saharan Africa. I conduct much of my research using a team oriented approach whereby I work in collaboration with local policy-makers and academicians. I believe this allows my research to be quickly and readily translated into local policy, while also allowing for a capacity building component, something that I very much enjoy doing. In the last number of years, my research has been trending towards three overarching themes. The first is the examination of aging in particularly difficult environments and harsh conditions, such as in regions characterized by extreme poverty or high rates of HIV/AIDS. The second is the investigation of the impact of migration of adult children on their older parents left behind in rural areas of developing societies. Given the ever increasing globalization, I think that migration will continue to be among the most important phenomenon influencing the lives of older people in developing societies. The third is more methodologically based, and involves the development of better techniques to examine changes and transitions in health as people age. Of course, I am most interested in projects that are able to combine these three themes.
I am currently working on several ongoing grants as Principal or Co-Principal Investigator:
“Modeling Disability Trajectories in Rapidly Aging Populations,” awarded by the National Institutes of Health – National Institute on Aging
“The Impact of Migration on the Family on the Family and Intergenerational Solidarity,” awarded by the Doha Institute for Family Studies & Development
“Urban/Rural Disparities in Health and Mortality in China,” awarded by the National Institutes of Health – National Institute on Aging
“The Impact of Migration of Adult Children on the Well-Being of Their Elderly Parents in Romania,” awarded by the University of Utah’s Center on Aging
- significant career milestone
I have had the great pleasure of being able to work in several invigorating scholarly environments. Working at the Population Council together with people like John Bongaarts and Linda Martin was important for my career. Linda and I continue on as good friends and colleagues and are working together on a number of projects. But, I think my greatest milestones for me are still to come. Projects that are just starting to develop, I think, will end up shaping my career in substantial ways.
PSC's Influence on Career
I have been very fortunate to have met, work with, and continue to collaborate with a number of people at PSC who have helped to shape my academic focus, thinking, and scholarly career. I am particularly grateful for having the chance to work with Al Hermalin both during and after my Ph.D. training. Al is probably the single most important and influential figure for both encouraging my scholarship guiding me into the current work that I am doing. I believe it was Al’s confidence in me that allowed me to think about working in difficult environments around the world, and I am still influenced by his continued mentorship, and always by his sense of humor. I’m also grateful to have linked up with John Knodel. While John was on my doctoral committee, we have more recently started working together on several projects in Cambodia and I would consider our research together as being the most satisfying collaboration of my career. So, PSC shaped my career mostly by the people it allowed me to be in contact with and work with, and this continues on.
Memories of PSC
My best memories of PSC involve the great friendships that I developed while there. Many of us continue to meet up every year at PAA and continue a tradition of ‘Michigan night’. My old PSC cronies who remain good friends include Jennifer Cornman, Lisa Godek, Sanjiv Gupta, Marcy Carlson, Kim Goyette, Cleen Heflin, Ted Mouw, Mary Noonan, Kim Shauman and of course PSC mainstay Mary Beth Ofstedal. But, my fondest memory has to be meeting my wife during my time PSC. It happened at the home of one of my best PSC friends Jim Raymo. In fact, my wife happens to be Jim’s sister. Jim and I are now brothers not only in vocation and also ‘in-law’ and our families spend a lot of time together during the year.