Sarah Brauner-Otto

Sarah Brauner-Otto

Director, Centre on Population Dynamics

Associate Professor

Department of Sociology
McGill University
Stephen Leacock Building, 713
Montreal, Quebec

Tel.: 514-398-5682
Email: sarah.brauner-otto [at]
Office: Leacock 728

Professor Brauner-Otto is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at McGill University. She is a social demographer studying global family change with a focus on the relationship between social context (such as schools and community organizations) and demographic behaviours over the life course. She is particularly interested in which dimensions of social context (e.g. characteristics of schools or health services) matter the most and how context influences the individual.



Professor Brauner-Otto’s research program has three axes:

  1. Social influences on global family change
  2. Macro-level perspectives on social organizations and fertility, and
  3. Methodological tools for studying global family change.

Her research program centers around the relationship between social context and the individual, specifically as it relates to the family. The first part of her research program investigates how specific dimensions or characteristics of social context influence individual family-related behaviours. For example, the specific services offered by a community organization, type of religious practices, or the specific kinds of natural resources available. The second part of Brauner-Otto’s research investigates the roles of attitudes and intergenerational relationships in linking macro characteristics to micro behaviour. The third part extends beyond these substantive issues to include data collection and analytic methods, particularly geo-spatial issues. Brauner-Otto conducts research in multiple locales—including the U.S., Nepal, and Europe—all settings with different social contexts, demographics, and family life patterns.

She has previously published papers that examine the relationship between specific services offered by a community organization, type of religious practices, and the specific kinds of natural resources available and fertility and marriage behaviour in Nepal and institutional influences on fertility in low fertility settings. Prof. Brauner-Otto’s research in the coming years will focus on labour markets as a key dimension of social context influencing global family change. This work is partly funded by an NIH grant to use the Chitwan Valley Family Study to investigate the relationship between female labour force participation and child outcomes in Nepal, a poor country where participation in paid, non-family labour has only recently become widespread. Using data from low fertility settings where women’s labour force participation is well established, she will investigate how specific dimensions of work (e.g. job autonomy and security) may influence fertility intentions and behaviour.



PhD in Sociology (2007): University of Michigan


Recent Publications

Brauner-Otto, Sarah R. and Claudia Geist. 2018. “Uncertainty, Doubts, and Delays: Economic context and fertility expectations among young Americans.” Journal of Family and Economic Issues. 39(1): 88-102. DOI 10.1007/s10834-017-9548-1

Brauner-Otto, Sarah R. and Axinn, William G. 2017. “Natural resource collection and desired family size: A longitudinal test of environment-population theories.Population and Environment 38(4): 381-406. DOI 10.1007/s11111-016-0267-6

Geist, Claudia and Sarah R. Brauner-Otto. 2017. “Constrained Intentions: Individual Economic Resources, Regional Context, and Fertility Expectations in Germany.” Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World 3:1-17. DOI 10.1177/2378023116685334

Rindfuss, Ronald R., Minja Kim Choe, and Sarah R. Brauner-Otto. 2016. “The Emergence of Two Distinct Fertility Regimes in Economically Advanced CountriesPopulation Research and Policy Review 35(3): 287-304. DOI 10.1007/s11113-016-9387-z

Clark, Shelley and Sarah R. Brauner-Otto. 2015. “Divorce in Sub-Saharan Africa: Are Unions Becoming Less Stable?” Population and Development Review 41(4): 583-605.

Brauner-Otto, Sarah R. 2015. “Health Services, Attitudes, and Fertility Limitation.” International Journal of Sociology 45(1): 24-43. DOI: 10.1080/00207659.2015.1004976.