David A. Lam

Director, Institute for Social Research (2015- )
Research Professor, Population Studies Center, ISR
Professor of Economics
David A. Lam


Big Idea: I study the economics and demography of poverty and inequality in developing countries, with a focus on Brazil and South Africa.

David Lam earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, M.A. degrees in Demography and Latin American Studies from UC Berkeley and University of Texas, respectively, and a B.A. in Latin American Studies from Ft. Lewis College. Dr. Lam is Director of the Institute for Social Research (ISR), Research Professor in the Population Studies Center, and Professor of Economics. He is also an Honorary Professor of Economics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Lam's research focuses on the interaction of economics and demography in developing countries, including analysis of the economics of population growth, fertility, marriage, and aging. He has worked extensively in Brazil and South Africa, where his research analyzes links between education, labor markets, and income inequality. His collaborations with the University of Cape Town include the Cape Area Panel Study, a longitudinal survey of young people in Cape Town supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Professor Lam has published widely in leading economics and demography journals.

He previously served as chair of the U-M Department of Economics, director of ISR's Population Studies Center, and director of the Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging. He has also served as president of the Population Association of America (PAA), a member of the Committee on Population in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and an advisor or consultant to the World Bank, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the United Nations Population Division, the United Nations Development Program, and the South Africa Office of the Presidency. He is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a Fellow of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD), and a Research Fellow of the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

Under Dr. Lam's leadership, ISR has expanded its research portfolio, including data science projects and projects integrating social science and bioscience. Thanks to Lam's visionary work, ISR has maintained its position as a highly competitive awardee for long standing projects, anchoring the Institute's intellectual and methodological culture.