Research Interests

I am an anthropological demographer specializing in research among Tibetan populations living in the highlands of Nepal, China, and India. I use the quantitative tools of demography to understand what is happening with a population, for example, the timing and magnitude of a fertility decline, or the pattern of out-migration. I use the qualitative tools of ethnography to understand the driving forces behind those trends, and how they impact the lives of individuals. Working across disciplines poses  challenges, yet offers many rewards such as collaborative research with like-minded colleagues on topics that are central to anthropology and the social sciences (migration, family systems, development, aging, adaptation).

Ongoing Research in Nubri, Nepal

Since starting Ph.D. fieldwork in 1995 I have continuously visited Nubri, a Tibetan cultural enclave in northern Gorkha District, Nepal, to study local history, family management strategies, demographic trends, and a host of other topics. My first book, Tibetan Diary, uses dialogues between the ethnographer and interlocutor Tashi Döndrub to explore the life cycle in Nubri from birth to death and beoynd. In a more recent book, From a Trickle to a Torrent, Namgyal Choedup and I investigate patterns and consequences of educational migration. Research in Nubri has been supported by Fulbright-Hays, Wenner-Gren, The National Science Foundation, World Oral Literature Project, The Shelly and Donald Rubin Foundation, and Washington University in St. Louis. Click the links below for some publications on Nubri.

Books: Tibetan Diary     Tibetan Transitions     From a Trickle to a Torrent

Articles: Obligation Contracts       Servant to Disciple     Yartsa Gunbu     Outmigration & Depopulation

Old Age Security   Relative Wealth   Life and Death   Fund a Ritual   Natal Horoscopes   Land Dispute

Collaborations with Biological Anthropologists

Since 2012 I have been co-PI with Cynthia Beall (Case Western) and Sienna Craig (Dartmouth) on a project titled “Genes and the Fertility of Tibetan Women at High Altitude in Nepal” that seeks to uncover links between genetic adaptation to high altitude and reproductive outcomes. Since 2013 I have been co-PI with E.A. Quinn (Washington University) on a project titled “Milk with Altitude” that explores associations between high altitude adaptation, mothers milk, and infant growth. Click the links below for some of the publications from this research.

Milk at Altitude     Ecological Pressures and Milk

Closing the Womb Door     Hemoglobin and Reproduction     Tibetan Genetic Structure

Socioeconomic Change and Aging in Tibet

From 2006-2009 I collaborated with Melvyn Goldstein (Case Western Reserve University) and Puchung Wangdui (Tibet Academy of Social Sciences) to investigate challenges elderly people face in Tibet in a context of rapid social and economic changes. We demonstrated how the elderly can act as agents of change through their strategies to keep adult children beholden to the household. We have also provided some of the most in-depth, on site perspectives on social, economic, and demographic changes occurring in Tibet in the wake of China’s massive development efforts.

Going for Income     Daughters as Social Capital     Tibetan Fertility Transitions

People First Campaign     Entreprenuers     Population, Policies, Resources

Kyirong Historical Demography

From 1999-2002 I conducted research on land tenure, family management strategies, and fertility outcomes in Tibet's Kyirong District prior to 1959. The research involved demographic analysis of a 1958 household register alongside hundreds of interviews with former Kyirong residents about their families, tax burdens, marital strategies, and other topics. Key findings are published in Tibetan Transitions (2008, Brill). Through this research I pioneered a method for analyzing  demographic data contained within household registers in order to estimate fertility and population growth.

Own-children Method     Nonmarriage & Fertility     Names and Nicknames

Polyandry and Population Growth     1958 Household Register

Other Research

Politics of family planning among Tibetan exiles in South Asia. Reproducing Identity

Disaster narratives from Nepal's 2015 earthquake.  Narrating Disaster through Participatory Research

Marraige and Kinship from Milarepa's biography.  Marriage, Kinship, Inheritance

Inca population fluctuations in 16th century Peru.  Indigenous Population Dynamics


Geoff Childs
Phone: (314) 935-9429
Fax: (314) 935-8535

Office: McMillan Hall 330

Mailing Address:
Campus Box 1114
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899