News | February 4, 2018

Emilio Zagheni is new MPIDR director

Emilio Zagheni has been appointed new director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR). The 36-year old Italian will head the Institute jointly with Mikko Myrskylä. One of Zagheni’s research priorities will be migration.

Zagheni took over with immediate effect from Founding Director James W. Vaupel after contracts were signed by Martin Stratmann, president of the Max Planck Society. For the first months, Zagheni will work part time at the Institute as he is fulfilling his current responsibilities as Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA.

Prior to his Washington position, he was Assistant Professor at City University of New York and a research scientist at the MPIDR. He had studied Economics, Statistics, and Social Sciences at Bocconi University, Milan, Italy, followed by an  MA in Statistics and a PhD in Demography from the University of California, Berkeley, USA.

“I believe that one of the most important questions that demographers need to address now is how to manage migration flows and the integration of migrants in the context of both slow population aging and sudden crises or shocks,” Zagheni says. According to him, those societies that will do well in leveraging the positive force of migration and in adapting to the changing composition and age structure of their populations will be the successful ones. He adds: “They will be the ones that will achieve high levels of well-being for their members.”

“Population dynamics related to migration, aging, and intergenerational relationships are happening against the backdrop of the so-called digital revolution. The global spread of the internet, social media, smartphones, and all sorts of tracking devices, along with increased computational power are revolutionizing both our lives and social sciences,” he says. One of his priorities is to continue leading the development of Digital and Computational Demography, a field that focuses on using our digital breadcrumbs to measure and predict demographic change as well as evaluating the implications of the digital revolution for demographic behavior.

Zagheni also intends to strengthen partnerships with universities, the industry, and other organizations in Germany and Europe and to create new collaborations beyond Europe. For example, he plans to establish joint training initiatives for doctoral students with the University of Washington, Seattle.

Zagheni, who was born and who grew up in Italy, is happy to come back to Rostock, where he conducted research  at the MPIDR from 2010 to 2012: “Coming back to Rostock is like closing a cycle and opening a new page. During my first stay in Rostock, I had the opportunity to explore new scientific territories and to work with digital trace data for the first time, using Yahoo! email-data to estimate migration flows. That was a startup phase for the field of digital demography. Together with a small group of interdisciplinary researchers, we planted the seeds for the formation of a community that focuses on leveraging digital trace data for demographic research. Now I am honored to lead the Institute into becoming the home for the field of digital and computational demography and I am looking forward to giving back by enabling young researchers at the MPIDR to pursue big ideas that fundamentally advance the discipline of demography. I am excited to embark on this journey with the impressive community of scientists and staff at the MPIDR.”