Elizabeth Leahy Madsen
Elizabeth Leahy Madsen is a consultant on political demography for the Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program and a senior technical advisor at Futures Group.
She has 12 years of experience in research, advocacy, and program management in international population and reproductive health, with a focus on demographic and family planning policy models. She has consulted on demographic issues for the Aspen Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, and George Washington University, and was a senior research associate at Population Action International (now PAI). She has published over 50 journal articles, book chapters, and technical reports and holds a Master’s degree in international affairs.
›May 11, 2015 // By Elizabeth Leahy Madsen
Sub-Saharan Africa is often characterized as an outlier in terms of population dynamics and reproductive health. While women are having fewer children around the world, even prompting some places to begin worrying about aging populations, the demographic transition is proceeding more slowly in Africa. Fertility rates in North and Southern Africa have declined to around three children per woman, but the three other sub-regions of the continent – East, Central, and West Africa – retain much higher fertility, between five and six children per woman. Whether, and how quickly, fertility rates decline in these regions over the next few decades will in large part determine the peak of world population. These regions’ demographic trajectories also have important implications for health, governance, food security, economic development, land use, climate vulnerability, and even security.
›December 22, 2014 // By Elizabeth Leahy Madsen
In an effort to revamp the time-intensive process of conducting household surveys to collect health data in developing countries, a new project is using mobile phones and rapid processing techniques to generate regular updates for a tranche of indicators previously only adjusted every three to five years.
›October 16, 2014 // By Elizabeth Leahy Madsen
Seasoned demography geeks know to anticipate the release of the UN Population Division’s World Population Prospects in the spring of odd-numbered years. An off-cycle update published last month in Science, summarizing new results and methodological changes to the projections, therefore provoked a buzz of interest and a mini-flurry of media coverage.
›April 28, 2014 // By Elizabeth Leahy Madsen
Democracy is fickle. Many of the competing theories on the best ways to foment and consolidate plural, inclusive governance or predict its rise and fall focus on political and economic forces. Yet a small group of demographers have explored population age structure as a catalyst for and reflection of a host of changes in societies that can affect governance.
›September 10, 2013 // By Elizabeth Leahy Madsen
Population aging and decline are frequently described as a threat to countries’ economic development and social stability. Evocative language, such as “demographic winter” and “graying of the great powers,” portrays the serious consequences that many observers envision as fertility and growth rates decline and the elderly comprise a greater percentage of the population. These concerns reach around the globe, including in Africa, which has the lowest percentage of elderly among the world’s major regions.
›August 7, 2013 // By Elizabeth Leahy Madsen
In a recent post on the new United Nations population projections, I discussed the risk in assuming that countries in sub-Saharan Africa will progress through the demographic transition at a pace similar to other regions. Making this assumption is questionable because fertility decline in Africa has generally proceeded more slowly than in other parts of the world, with several cases of “stalls” and even small fertility increases over time.
›June 26, 2013 // By Elizabeth Leahy Madsen
October 31, 2011, was notable not only for the annual ritual of candy and costumes, but also for its designation by the United Nations as the date when global population reached seven billion. Although just an estimate – demographers are not able to count individuals in real time on such a large scale – the event was an important opportunity to present population trends to the media and public dialogue. Several babies born that day were named the “seven billionth;” in Russia, where various incentives have been implemented to try to boost an ultra-low fertility rate, Vladimir Putin visited a maternity ward to greet one of them.
›August 8, 2012 // By Elizabeth Leahy Madsen
In late July, Iran’s government announced that it would no longer fund family planning programs, a dramatic reversal following 20 years of support. The change is especially abrupt for a country that has been lauded as a family planning success story, with thorough rural health services and an educated female population contributing to one of the swiftest demographic transitions in history.