Deborah DeGraff photo
“I will be forever grateful to Eva for having recruited me, and very glad that I responded to her letter!”

Deborah DeGraff

Professor, Department of Economics, Bowdoin College.

Ph.D. Economics, 1989 University of Michigan


Research Activities

Deb DeGraff received her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Michigan in 1989. Before coming to Bowdoin College in 1991 she spent two years at the International Labour Office in Geneva, Switzerland working with a program on population and development issues in Africa, and held a two-year postdoctoral research fellowship at the Carolina Population Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

DeGraff's primary research interests are in the areas of applied demographic and labor economics in the context of developing countries. Much of her work focuses on the application of microeconomics to household decisions regarding children’s work and schooling, women’s labor force participation, and fertility. She has investigated these issues in Bangladesh, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Ecuador. She has also conducted research on women’s employment and the availability of on-site child care in a low-wage industry in the United States. Her recent research interests additionally include a focus on the economic position of the elderly in Mexico.

Recent publications of her research include “A Pace of its Own: The Demography of Ageing in Sri Lanka” (with K.A.P. Siddhisena) in Journal of Population Ageing, “Children’s Work and Mothers’ Work – What is the Connection?” (with Deborah Levison) in World Development, “Old-Age Wealth in Mexico: The Role of Reproductive, Human Capital and Employment Decisions,” (with Rebeca Wong) in Research on Aging, “Tackling the Endogeneity of Fertility in the Study of Women’s Employment in Developing Countries” (with Rachel Connelly, Deborah Levison and Brian McCall) in Journal of Feminist Economics, “Children’s School Enrollment and Time at Work in the Philippines” (with Richard Bilsborrow) in Journal of Developing Areas, “Young Women’s Employment in Sri Lanka: The Role of Marriage and Socioeconomic Status” (with Anju Malhotra) in Sri Lankan Journal of Population Studies, and “The Value of Employer-Sponsored Child Care to Employees (with Rachel Connelly and Rachel Willis) in Industrial Relations. Her research has been supported by grants from the International Labour Office, the National Institute on Aging, the National Science Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

In addition to courses on economic theory and statistics, DeGraff teaches courses on the economics of population issues and development economics. She was awarded Bowdoin’s Karofsky prize for teaching excellence among untenured faculty in 1993/94 and served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from 2000/01 through 2003/04

PSC's Influence on Career
My years at PSC were truly wonderful! To have the opportunity at that stage of my career to be exposed to and involved in research of such high quality, and in such a supportive and collegial environment, was more than I could have hoped for. I also very much appreciated the interdisciplinary environment of the PSC. I had entered graduate school in Economics knowing that I wanted to focus on developing countries. I was not aware of economic demography as a possible field of specialization until I received a letter from Eva Mueller at the end of my first year of graduate study. That letter led to my becoming an NICHD pre-doctoral fellow for the next four years. I will be forever grateful to Eva for having recruited me, and very glad that I responded to her letter!

I have co-authored with the following PSC grad school colleagues: Rachel Connelly, Deborah Levison, Rebeca Wong and Anju Malhotra. Deborah and I have been collaborating almost continuously since our days at PSC (sometimes along with others) and have published six papers together on various aspects of women's and children's labor force participation in Brazil, with more in the works. We are currently developing a new project, building on Deborah's recent sabbatical year in Tanzania, on the effects of rural children's time spent gathering fuel and water on their education.
Memories of PSC
In addition to all the learning, there was a great camaraderie among the grad students at PSC during that time. I continue to be close friends with many of my colleagues from those days.
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