Research Interests

I am an anthropological demographer. In researching Tibetans societies 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. At the same time 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 many challenges, yet offers many rewards such as conducting collaborative research with like-minded colleagues on topics that are central to anthropology and the social sciences (migration, family systems, development, ageing, adaptation).

Ongoing Research in Nubri, Nepal

Since starting Ph.D. fieldwork in 1995 I have continuously visited the Tibetan enclaves in northern Gorkha District, Nepal, to study local history, family management strategies, demographic trends, and a host of other topics. My most recent project, with Namgyal Choedup, investigated patterns and consequences of educational migration and culminated in our book titled From a Trickle to a Torrent (Univ. of California Press). My research has been supported over the years by Fulbright-Hays, Wenner-Gren, NSF, World Oral Literature Project, the Rubin Foundation, and Washington University in St. Louis. See "Publications" link above to access my publications on Nubri and other places.

Collaborations with Physical 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

Previous Research Projects

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.

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. Through this research I pioneered a method for analyzing  demographic data contained within household registers in order to estimate fertility and population growth.

Alongside the Kyirong research I investigated demographic trends and the politics of family planning among Tibetan exiles in South Asia. One of the findings is that parents' concerns over raising high-quality children trumped nationalistic calls to produce many offspring for the benefit of the nation.

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