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Emily Merchant


  • Ph.D., History, University of Michigan, 2015
  • M.A., History, University of Michigan, 2005
  • B.A., History, Pomona College, 2001


I am a historian of science and technology in the twentieth century, focusing on the human sciences and technologies of human measurement. My current project, Prediction and Control: U.S. Demography and Global Population in the Twentieth Century, examines how human population became a subject of scientific expertise and how demography shaped population dynamics during a period of unprecedented growth. This project combines archival research, oral history, and computational textual analysis to develop an intellectual, institutional, and material history of the science and politics of global population in the twentieth century. Past projects include studies of the historical demography and environmental history of the United States West, which use computational methods to explore Mexican migration to the United States, the environmental consequences of agriculture on the Great Plains, and the changing living arrangements of older women. These projects have resulted in publications in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, International Migration Review, and Population Research and Policy Review, as well as the production of public-use datasets for historical demography and environmental history.

Research Focus

My current major project is a book on the history of demography and global population politics, tentatively titled Prediction and Control: U.S. Demography and Global Population in the Twentieth Century. It asks how human population became a subject of scientific expertise and how that expertise shaped population during a century of unprecedented growth. Research for this project has taken me into the archives of prominent demographers, the institutions in which they worked, and the patrons who funded their research. I have also completed several oral history interviews with demographers who are still alive.

I have recently completed two large collaborative research projects. The first examined the history of Mexican immigration to the United States from About 1850 to 1950. Together with Brian Gratton (Arizona State University), I produced new estimates of the number of Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children who emigrated (both forcibly and voluntarily) to Mexico during the 1930s. on the history of Mexican migration to the United States from about 1850 to 1950 and one on the environmental and demographic history of the U.S. Great Plains since the Homestead Act (1862). These projects heavily utilized quantitative methods.

Selected Publications

Emily Klancher Merchant. 2017. A Digital History of Anglophone Demography and Global Population Control, 1915-1984. Population and Development Review 43(1): 83-117.

Emily Klancher Merchant and J. David Hacker. 2016. Historical Demography in the United States, in A Global History of Historical Demography, ed. Antoinette Fauve-Chamoux, S. Sogner, and I. Bolovan. Bern: Peter Lang.

Emily R. Merchant, Brian Gratton, and Myron P. Gutmann. 2012. A Sudden Transition: Household Changes for Middle-Aged U.S. Women in the Twentieth Century. Population Research and Policy Review 31(5): 703-726.

George C. Alter, Myron P. Gutmann, Susan H. Leonard, and Emily R. Merchant, eds. 2012. Longitudinal Analysis of Historical-Demographic Data. Special Issue of Journal of Interdisciplinary History 42(4).

Myron P. Gutmann, Glenn D. Deane, Emily R. Merchant, and Kenneth M. Sylvester, eds. 2011. Navigating Time and Space in Population Studies. New York: Springer.

Brian Gratton and Emily Klancher Merchant. 2016. La Raza: Mexicans in the United States Census. Journal of Policy History.

Brian Gratton and Emily Klancher Merchant. 2015. An Immigrant’s Tale: The Mexican-American Southwest, 1850-1950. Social Science History 39(4): 521-550.

Brian Gratton and Emily Klancher Merchant. 2013. Immigration, Repatriation, Deportation: The Mexican-Origin Population in the United States, 1920-1950. International Migration Review 47(4): 944-975.

William J. Parton, Myron P. Gutmann, Emily Klancher Merchant, Melannie D. Hartman, Paul R. Adler, Frederick M. McNeal, and Susan M. Lutz. 2015. Measuring and Mitigating Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Production in the United States, 1870-2000. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(34): E4681-E4688.

Kenneth M. Sylvester, Daniel G. Brown, Susan H. Leonard, Emily Merchant, and Meghan Hutchins. 2014. Exploring agent-level calculations of risk and returns in relation to observed land-use changes in the U.S. Great Plains, 1870-1940. Regional Environmental Change 15(2): 301-315.

Myron P. Gutmann, Sara M. Pullum-Piñón, Kristine Witkowski, Glenn D. Deane, and Emily R. Merchant. 2012. Land Use and Family Formation in the Settlement of the U.S. Great Plains. Social Science History 36(3): 279-310.


I teach courses in the history of science, technology, and medicine, and courses in data analysis and visualization. I particularly enjoy teaching at the intersection of these areas.


James Madison Prize, Society for History in the Federal Government, 2017

American Philosophical Society and British Academy Franklin Research Grant, 2016

Doris G. Quinn Foundation Dissertation Finishing Fellowship, 2015

University of Michigan Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship, 2015

National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, 2012

U.S. Department of Education Jacob Javits Fellowship, 2003