Jeff Passel is a nationally renowned expert on immigration patterns in the United States, particularly of the Latino community, and has written extensively on immigration's effect on the country's economy and demography. He is a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center.
After graduating college, I volunteered in Montana with VISTA, a community action agency that provided services to low-income populations. In the late 1960s, population trends were just becoming a part of people's conversations. I began to appreciate the importance of voluntary family planning and its impact on maternal health and social and economic development in the United States and worldwide. This piqued my interest in demography, and after getting my master's in sociology, I applied to become a Population Council fellow. The generosity of the Council's fellowship allowed me to focus on my studies in demography and statistics for my Ph.D. While in my doctoral program, I met John Bongaarts, currently Vice President and Distinguished Scholar at the Council, whose work in demography was and continues to be inspiring. Thanks to the Council's focus on furthering scholarly work in demography, I was able to complete my studies and build relationships in the field.
I have closely followed the Council's work, and I appreciate the importance, breadth, and magnitude of its research to empower women and families to control their fertility. It is vital that the Council continue to develop expertise around the world among both scholars and lay people.
In my work as a demographer, I have collaborated with counterparts in Mexico, a country that has benefited greatly from the work of organizations like the Population Council. The change in Mexican society has been incredibly dramatic. Back when I started this work in 1970, the average woman was having seven children; by 2000, it was down to roughly 2.2 to 2.4. We have seen these huge decreases in fertility across all educational and socioeconomic levels.
Allowing couples to decide when to have children is very important. We can point to cases like Mexico where it has made a major difference in improving health and reducing inequality and poverty. Yet there is still tremendous work to be done. The Council's research in educating people and training health workers and scholars is important for many countries and the well-being of the world as a whole.
In many ways I am a beneficiary of the Population Council. It is a pleasure to be a donor and even marginally give back for all that the Council has done, not only for me, but for the many people all over the world who have benefited from its research.