Shelley Clark

James McGill Professor of Sociology & Department ChairShelly Clark

Peterson Hall Building, Room 336
3460 McTavish
Montreal, Quebec, H3A 0E6

E-Mail: shelley.clark [at]

Office Hours: Thursdays 13:30 -15:30 
Please schedule an appointment via this link

Curriculum Vitae

Research Areas

Social demography; family dynamics; rural and urban inequalities; child wellbeing; adolescent transitions; and life course methods



(PhD, Princeton University, 1999).

Prof. Clark is a demographer whose research focuses on gender, health, family dynamics, and life course transitions. After receiving her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1999, Dr. Clark served as program associate at the Population Council in New York (1999 to 2002) and as an Assistant Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago (2002 to 2006). In the summer of 2006, she joined the Department of Sociology at McGill, where in 2012 she became the founding Director of the Centre on Population Dynamics.

Much of her research over two decades has examined how adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa make key transitions to adulthood in the midst of an on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic. Additional work has highlighted the social, economic, and health vulnerabilities of single mothers and their children in sub-Saharan Africa. Recently she has embarked on a new research agenda to assess rural and urban inequalities and family dynamics in the United States and Canada. She recently co-edited a special issue of The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences on "Growing Up in Rural America." Her findings have been published in leading journals, such as Demography, Population and Development Review, Social Forces, and Journal of Marriage and Family, and presented to policy makers at influential international organizations, including the World Bank, WHO, UN, and the Population Council.


Selected Publications


Clark, Shelley, Matthew Brooks, Ann-Marie Helou, and Rachel Margolis. Forthcoming. “Are Rural Areas Holdouts in the Second Demographic Transition?: Evidence from the U.S. and Canada.” Demography.

Clark, Shelley, Madeleine Henderson, and Caroline Kabiru. 2024. “Single Motherhood and Stress in a Kenyan Slum: The Importance of Paternal and Kin Support.Journal of Family Issues, 45(1): 74-102. (DOI: 10.1177/0192513X221150978)

Cotton, Cassandra, Shelley Clark, and Sangeetha Madhavan. 2022. “One Hand Does Not Bring Up a Child:” Child Fostering among Single Mothers in Nairobi Slums.” Demographic Research, 46: 865-904. (DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2022.46.30).

Clark, Shelley, Sam Harper, and Bruce Weber. 2022. “Growing Up in Rural America.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 8(3): 1-47.

Clark, Shelley, Sam Harper, and Bruce Weber (editors). 2022. “Growing Up Rural: How Place Shapes OutcomesRSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, Volume 8, issues 3 & 4. (double issue)

Clark, Shelley, Elizabeth Lawrence and Shannon Monnat. 2022. “Support from Adult Children and Parental Health in Rural America.” Journal of Rural Social Science, 37(1): Article 2, 1-30.

Clark, Shelly. 2021. "A Life Course Perspective on BMI in Rural America." Health & Place, 69(102562): 1-9 (DOI: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2021.102562) PMID: 33765494

Madhavan, Sangeetha, Shelley Clark, and Sara Schmidt. 2021. “Single Mothers Coping with Food Insecurity in a Nairobi Slum.” Urban Studies, 58(13):2703–2720. (DOI: 10.1177/0042098020963849)

Pugliese, Maude, Céline Le Bourdais, and Shelley Clark. 2021. "Credit Card Debt and the Provision of Financial Support to Kin in the US." Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 42(4):616-632. (DOI:10.1007/s10834-020-09731-7)

Smith-Greenaway, Emily, Alissa Koski, and Shelley Clark. 2021. “Women's Marital Experiences Following Premarital Fertility in Sub‐Saharan Africa.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 83(2): 394-408. (DOI:10.1111/jomf.12704)

Koski, Alissa and Shelley Clark. 2021. “Child Marriage in Canada between 2000 and 2018.” Population and Development, 47(1): 57-78. (DOI:10.1111/padr.12369)

Clark, Shelley, Midanna De Almada, Caroline W Kabiru, Stella Muthuri, and Milka Wanjohi. 2021. “Balancing Paid Work and Child Care in a Slum of Nairobi, Kenya: The Case for Center-Based Child Care.” Journal of Family Studies, 27(1): 93-111. (DOI: 10.1080/13229400.2018.1511451)

Clark, Shelley, Cassandra Cotton, Rachel Margolis, and Hans-Peter Kohler. 2020. “The Psychological Benefits of Marriage and Children in Rural Malawi.” Studies in Family Planning, 51(3): 251-272. (DOI: 10.1111/sifp.12133)

Clark, Shelley, Caroline W Kabiru, Sonia Laszlo, and Stella Muthuri. 2019. "The impact of childcare on poor urban Women’s economic empowerment in Africa." Demography, 56:1247-1272.  (DOI: 10.1007/s13524-019-00793-3)

Clark, Shelley, Midanna De Almada, Caroline W Kabiru, Stella Muthuri, and Milka Wanjohi. 2018. "Balancing Paid Work and Child Care in a Slum of Nairobi, Kenya: The Case for Center-Based Child Care.” Journal of Family Studies. (DOI: 10.1080/13229400.2018.1511451)

Clark, Shelley, Sangeetha Madhavan, and Caroline Kabiru. 2018. “Kin Support and Child Health: Investigating Two Approaches in an African Slum.” Social Science Research, 76:105-119. (DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2018.08.001) (NIHMS1503340)

Clark, Shelley, Marianne Paul, Richmond Aryeetey, and Grace Marquis. 2018. “An Assets-Based Approach to Promoting Girls’ Financial Literacy, Savings, and Education.” Journal of Adolescence, 68: 94-104. (DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2018.07.010)

Madhavan, Sangeetha, Shelley Clark, and Yuko Hara. 2018. “Gendered Emotional Support and Women’s Well-Being in a Low-Income Urban African Setting.” Gender & Society, 32(6): 837-859. (DOI: 10.1177/0891243218786670)

Madhavan, Sangeetha, Donatien Beguy and Shelley Clark. 2018. “Measuring Extended Families over Time in Informal Settlements in Nairobi, Kenya: Retention and Data Consistency in a Two-Round Survey.” Demographic Research, 38: 1339-1358. (DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2018.38.44)

Madhavan, Sangeetha, Shelley Clark, Malcolm Araos, and Donatien Beguy. 2018. “Distance or Location?: How the Geographic Distribution of Kin Networks Shapes Support Given to Single Mothers in Urban Kenya.” The Geographical Journal, 184(1):75–88. (DOI: 10.1111/geoj.12230)

Smith-Greenaway, Emily and Shelley Clark. 2018. “Women’s Marriage Behavior following a Premarital Birth in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 80(1): 256–270. (DOI:10.1111/jomf.12433).

Smith-Greenaway, Emily and Shelley Clark. 2017. “Variation in the Link between Parental Divorce and Children’s Health Disadvantage in Low and High Divorce Settings.” Social Science & Medicine – Population Health, 3:473-486. (DOI:10.1016/j.ssmph.2017.04.004)

Clark, Shelley, Sangeetha Madhavan, Cassandra Cotton, Donatien Beguy, and Caroline Kabiru. 2017. “Who Helps Single Mothers in Nairobi?: The Role of Kin SupportJournal of Marriage and Family, 79(4): 1186–1204 (DOI: 10.1111/jomf.12404).

Koski, Alissa, Shelley Clark, and Arijit Nandi. 2017. “Has Child Marriage Declined in Sub-Saharan Africa? An Analysis of Trends in 31 Countries,” Population and Development Review 43(1):7-29 (DOI: 10.1111/padr.12035).

Clark, Shelley, Alissa Koski, and Emily Smith-Greenaway. 2017. “Recent Trends in Premarital Childbirth in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Studies in Family Planning, 48(1): 3-22 (DOI: 10.1111/sifp.12013)

Madhavan, Sangeetha, Shelley Clark, Donatien Beguy, Caroline Kabiru, and Mark Gross. 2017. “Moving Beyond the Household: Innovations in Data Collection on Kinship.Population Studies. 71(1): 117-132. (DOI: 10.1080/00324728.2016.1262965)

Le Bourdais, Céline, Sung Hee Jeon, Shelley Clark, and Évelyne Lapierre-Adamcyk. 2016. “Impact of Conjugal Separation on Women’s Income: in Canada: Does the Type of Union Matter?Demographic Research, 35(50): 1489-1522. (DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2016.35.50 )

Bertrand-Danereau, Anaïs and Shelley Clark. 2016. “Impulsive Marriage and Early Divorce among Women in Rural Malawi: Pragmatic Traditions or Romantic Aspirations?Demographic Research, 35(3): 47-80. (DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2016.35.3)

Marteleto, Letícia, Shannon Cavanagh, Kate Prickett, and Shelley Clark. 2016. “Instability in Parent–Child Coresidence and Adolescent Development in Urban South Africa.Studies in Family Planning, 47(1): 19-38. (DOI: 10.1111/j.1728-4465.2016.00048.x)

Clark, Shelley and Sarah Brauner-Otto. 2015. “Divorce in Sub-Saharan Africa: Are Unions Becoming Less Stable?Population and Development Review, 41(4): 583-605. (DOI: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2015.00086.x)

Clark, Shelley, Cassandra Cotton, and Leticia Marteleto. 2015. “Family Ties and Young Fathers’ Engagement in Cape Town, South Africa.Journal of Marriage and Family, 77(2): 575-589.

Clark, Shelley and Dana Hamplovà. 2013. “Single Motherhood and Child Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa:  A Life Course Perspective.” Demography, 50(5):1521-1549. 

Anglewicz, Philip and Shelley Clark.  2013. "The Effect of Marriage and HIV Status on Condom Use in Rural MalawiSocial Science & Medicine, 97: 29-40. 

Clark, Shelley and Cassandra Cotton.  2013. “Transitions to Adulthood in Urban Kenya: A Focus on Adolescent Migrants.”  Demographic Research, 28: 1053-1092.

Clark, Shelley and Rohini Mathur. 2012. “Dating, Sexual Debut, and Secondary School Completion in Urban Kenya.”  Studies in Family Planning, 43(3):  161-174.

Clark, Shelley, Caroline Kabiru, and Eliya Zulu. 2011. “Do Men and Women Report Their Sexual Partnerships Differently?:  Evidence From Kisumu, Kenya.International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 37(4):  181-190.

Luke, Nancy, Shelley Clark, and Eliya Zulu. 2011. “The Relationship History Calendar: Improving the Scope and Quality of Data on Youth Sexual Behavior.” Demography, 48: 1151-1176.

Clark, Shelley. 2010. "Extra-Marital Sexual Partnerships and Male Friendships in Rural Malawi" Demographic Research, 22: 1-28.

Clark, Shelley, Caroline Kabiru, and Rohini Mathur. 2010. "Relationship Transitions Among Youth in Urban Kenya." Journal of Marriage and Family, 72: 73-88.

Clark, Shelley, and Catherine Kenney. 2010. “Is the U.S. Experiencing a “Matrilineal Tilt”?: Gender, Family Structures and Financial Transfers to Adult Children.” Social Forces, 88(4): 1753-1776. ( click here for supplemental tables [.pdf])

Anglewicz, Philip, Simona Bignami-Van Assche, Shelley Clark, and James Mkandawire. 2010. “HIV Risks Among Currently Married Couples in Rural Malawi: What do Spouses Know About Each Other?AIDS and Behavior, 14: 103-112.

Clark, Shelley, Michelle Poulin, and Hans-Peter Kohler. 2009. “Marital Aspirations, Sexual Behaviors and HIV/AIDS in Rural Malawi.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 71: 396-416.

Boileau, Catherine, Shelley Clark, Michelle Poulin, et al.. 2009. “Sexual and Marital Trajectories and HIV Infection Among Ever-Married Women in Rural Malawi.Sexually Transmitted Infections, 85 (Suppl 1): i27-i33.

Heymann, Jody, Shelley Clark, and Tim Brewer. 2008. “Moving from Preventing HIV/AIDS in Its Infancy to Preventing Family Illness and Death (PFID).International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 12: 117-119.

Clark, Shelley, Judith Bruce, and Annie Dude. 2006. “Protecting Girls from HIV/AIDS: The Case Against Child and Adolescent Marriage.International Family Planning Perspectives, 32(2); pp 79-88.

Kaufman, Carol, Shelley Clark, Ntsiki Manzini, and Julian May. 2004. “Communities, Opportunities, and Adolescent Sexual Behavior in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa." Studies in Family Planning, 35(4); pp 261-274.

Clark, Shelley. 2004. “Early Marriage and HIV Risks in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Studies in Family Planning, 35(3); pp 149-160.


Courses Taught

Undergraduate Courses:

SOCI 355: Rural Life in a Global Society
SOCI 365: Health and Development

Graduate Courses:

SOCI 504: Quantitative Analyses I
SOCI 513: Social Aspects of AIDS in Africa
SOCI 545: Sociology of Population
SOCI 626: Demographic Methods

Research Grants

Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant, “Are Rural Americans Disadvantaged? Inequalities in Life Course Trajectories across the Rural-Urban Divide” (2019-2024)

International Development Research Centre (IDRC), GrOW, “Creating Better Economic Opportunities for Women in Nairobi Slums Through Improved Childcare Options” (2014-2017)

Population Council, RISING, “Financial Literacy and Educational Incentive Program for Adolescent Girls in Ghana” (2014-2016)

National Institutes of Health, (NIH NICHD, R21) “Measuring Kinship Support for Children of Single Mothers in Nairobi, Kenya” (2014-2017)

Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Insight Development Grant “Pilot Test of a New Family Support Tree (FST) Survey Instrument in Montréal, Canada and Nairobi, Kenya” (2013-2015)

Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), “Life Histories, Health, and HIV/AIDS Data Center” (2007-2012)

National Institute for Health (NIH NICHD R21), “Using Relationship Histories to Improve Sexual Behavior Data Among Kenyan Couples” (2006-2007)

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