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Rachel Robinson

Associate Professor School of International Service

Dr. Robinson is a sociologist and demographer whose research focuses on global health interventions in sub-Saharan Africa, including family planning, HIV/AIDS, and sexuality education. Her book, Intimate Interventions: Preventing Pregnancy and Preventing HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa (Cambridge University Press 2017), investigates the relationship between family planning and HIV/AIDS interventions across the continent with a focus on Senegal, Nigeria, and Malawi. Journals that have published her research include Demography, Journal of the International AIDS Society, Population Studies, and Population Research and Policy Review. She has conducted field research in Namibia, Malawi, Nigeria, and Senegal, and current projects relate to politicized homophobia in sub-Saharan Africa and the extent of social science knowledge on NGOs. Her research has been funded by the MacArthur Foundation, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Robinson teaches courses on statistics, global health, NGOs, population studies, and development.


PhD, Sociology and Demography, University of California, Berkeley, 2007
MA, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, 2003
MA, Demography, University of California, Berkeley, 2002
BA, Sociology and Anthropology, Swarthmore College, 1999

Favorite Spot on Campus
My office
Book Currently Reading
Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

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SIS-School of Intl Service
SIS - 341
Tuesdays 2:30-4 Wednesdays 4:15-6:15 Fridays 11-12:30
Contact Info
(202) 885-1636 (Office)

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For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.


  • Spring 2018

    • SIS-619 Special Studies in Int'l Pol: NGOs in Global Governance
    • Description
    • SISU-349 Topics Glb Ineq,Dev,Env,Hlth: Politics of Population
    • Description
    • SOCY-396 Selected Topics:Non-Recurring: Politics of Population
    • Description
  • Fall 2018

    • SIS-635 Adv Topics in Development Mgmt: Introduction to Global Health
    • Description

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

Dr. Robinson has published on the determinants of fertility timing and numbers in the journals Demography and Population Studies.  She has also published on population policy (forthcoming in Population Research and Policy Review).  She is currently working on a book project that extends her research on population policy to examine how countries’ political and organizational responses to rapid population growth have influenced their ability to combat HIV/AIDS. A related piece was published in 2011 in the Journal of the International AIDS Society.


Selected Publications

  • Robinson, Rachel Sullivan.  Forthcoming.  “Negotiating Development Prescriptions: The Case of Population Policy in Nigeria.”  Population Research and Policy Review.   
  • Robinson, Rachel Sullivan.  2011.  “From Population to HIV: The Organizational and Structural Determinants of HIV Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa.”  Journal of the International AIDS Society 14(Suppl 2): S6.
  • "Counting Women's Labour: A Reanalysis of Children's Net Production Using Cain's Data from a Bangladeshi Village," Population Studies 62(1): 25-38, 2008 (with Karen L. Kramer, and Ronald D. Lee).  
  • "The Age Pattern of First-Birth Rates among US Women: The Bimodal 1990s," Demography 42(2): 259-73, 2005.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Council of American Overseas Research Centers Multi-Country Research Fellowship 2009-10   
  • Poster Award, Population Association of America, 2008, 2009   
  • Finalist, Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research Program, 2007   
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, University of California, Berkeley, 2004   
  • National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Fellowship, 2003-06   
  • National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, Graduate Training Grant, 2001-03

Professional Presentations


  • “The Politics of Sex in Nigeria.”  African Studies Association, November 17, Washington, DC.
  • “Intimate Interventions: Preventing Pregnancy and Preventing HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.”  American Sociological Association, August 20, Las Vegas, NV.
  • “Intimate Interventions: Talking Sex in Response to Population Growth and HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa.”  Population Association of America, April 1, Washington, DC. (Poster)


  • “From Family Planning to HIV: Untangling Sex-Related Interventions in Senegal, Nigeria, and Malawi.”  African Studies Association, Nov. 21, San Francisco, CA.
  • “Social Resources and Health Disparities: The Impact of NGOs on HIV Prevalence and Treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa.”  American Sociological Association, August 17, Atlanta, GA.
  • “Using Population Policies and Non-Governmental Organizations to Explain HIV/AIDS Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa.”  Population Association of America, April 16, Dallas, TX.



  • “The Impact of HIV/AIDS on NGOs and Population Policies in Sub-Saharan Africa.” (Poster) International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, September 28, Marrakech, Morocco. 
  • “Explaining Sub-Saharan African Countries’ Differential Success in Combating HIV/AIDS.”  American Sociological Association, August 11, San Francisco, CA.
  • “The Distribution and Impact of HIV/AIDS NGOs in Sub-Saharan Africa.”  Sociologists’ AIDS Network, August 7, San Francisco, CA.
  • “The Impact of Policies and NGOs on Fertility and HIV Prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa.”  Population Association of America, April 30, Detroit, MI. (Poster award winner.)
  • “The Distribution and Impact of HIV/AIDS NGOs in Sub-Saharan Africa.”  Aids2031 workshop “Mobilizing Social Capital in a World with AIDS,” March 30, Salzburg, Austria

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