Gillings School Directory

Richard Bilsborrow, PhD

Richard Bilsborrow, PhD

Department of Biostatistics
  • 206 West Franklin Street
  • CB# 8120
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27516
  • USA

Dr. Richard Bilsborrow is a Research Professor in the Department of Biostatistics. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Departments of City and Regional Planning, Economics, and Geography, and the Curriculum in Ecology and Environment.

He was trained as an economist but had a strong mathematics minor in college and took econometrics in graduate school and audited later courses. His interest from the beginning was in how to promote economic development and poverty reduction in low-income countries, especially following his Fulbright Award to Colombia as a graduate student. His first job was at New York University teaching economics and statistics, followed by a postdoc in Demography with renown Prof. Ansley Coale. He then came to UNC-CH, where he has worked on and directed three USAID projects on population and development in developing countries, including teaching in Spanish overseas. He has more than 40 years of experience in interdisciplinary collaborative research and in developing methods (sample and questionnaire design, training interviewers) for collecting data from household and community surveys, and using it to study demographic behavior (migration & fertility), economic activities and relationships with and impacts on land and forests in developing countries, especially in Latin America. He has taught a required course for UNC graduate student population trainees for over 20 years.

Besides USAID projects, he has had many research grants funded by NICHD, NASA, NIH, and foundations for which he was Principal Investigator. He has reviewed proposals for NSF and served on NAS, Populations Association of America, and International Union for the Scientific Study of Population key committees. He has been a consultant to the World Bank, UN Population and Statistics Division, UN Development Fund and Population Fund, International Labor Office, Food and Agricultural Organization, etc., and is currently on the Advisory Committee of the International Organization for Migration.

Dr. Bilsborrow has a long history of mentoring students and post-doctoral fellows, being the major advisor for several dozen pre-doctoral students and about 20 post-doctoral fellows.

Honors and Awards

Deputy Editor

1978, Demography

Shannon Award

1996, NICHD

Hofstee Fellow

1997-1998, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute

Teaching Interests

Demographic Methods, Population, Development and Environment, Migration, Survey Methods

Research Activities

Population and Environment, Migration, Economic Development and Poverty, Fertility, Sampling and Survey Methods

Research Interests

  • Demography
  • Environment (land, forests)
  • Health Behavior

Service Activities

Co-developer of PERN global environmental academic web-based network

Advisor to various UN organizations 

Key Publications

International Migration Statistics: Guidelines for Improving Data Collection Systems. Bilsborrow, Richard E., G. Hugo, A. Oberai, & H. Zlotnik. (1997). Geneva: International Labour Office.

The use of survey data to study migration-environment relationships in developing countries: alternative approaches to data collection. Bilsborrow, Richard E., and Sabine Henry (2012). Population and Environment, 34.

Determinants of out-migration in rural China: effects of payments for ecosystem services. Zhang, Qi., Bilsborrow, R. E., Song, C., Tao, S., & Huang, Q. (2018). Population and Environment, 40(2), 182-203.


Certificate, Demography, Princeton University, 1972

PhD, Economics, University of Michigan, 1968

MA, Economics, University of Michigan, 1966

BA, Economics, Carleton College, 1963

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