Demographers elect their first Canadian president

Thomas LeGrand

Thomas LeGrand

In 5 seconds

UdeM's Thomas LeGrand will serve a four-year term as head of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, a milestone for the 90-year-old institution.

For the first time since its founding in 1928, a Canadian has been elected president of the world’s largest association of demographers, the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP). Thomas LeGrand, a professor in UdeM’s Department of Demography, took over as head of the organization on January 1, for a term of four years.

Professor LeGrand, the department's chair from 2010 to 2014, has devoted many years to promoting population research at both the national and international level. His election as president of the IUSSP represents the culmination of a lengthy career dedicated to teaching, research and the discipline of demography. He was previously elected to the Union’s governing council, holding this position for 12 years before serving as the IUSSP’s vice-president from 2014 to 2017. He was also vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Demographers from 2011 to 2014, in addition to serving on several committees of the Population Association of America.

Big data open up new areas of study

During his mandate, Professor LeGrand, who specializes in economic demography and developing-country populations, plans to continue to promote demographic research and the use of big data, in particular as a means of measuring the attainment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. According to him, the new types of data and research methods available will also be extremely useful for the study of demographic processes that remain little known today due to a lack of existing data or means, particularly in poor countries. He cites the massive use of modern communication tools, new information technologies and social networks, which has made it possible to study the migratory movements of refugees almost in real time. Demographers, he believes, have a duty to extract these vastly under-utilized data to foster a better understanding of demographic trends and the well-being of populations.

Supporting research and teaching in Sub-Saharan Africa

One of LeGrand’s current projects involves developing a new, four-year program of activities aimed at meeting family planning and reproductive health needs and assessing the policy implications of declining fertility in urban areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, both regions where the world’s largest population growth is expected to occur in the decades ahead. He will soon be submitting a project proposal to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Over the years, Professor LeGrand’s dynamism has helped numerous students from Sub-Saharan Africa and post-doctoral researchers, both past and present, to secure funding for research and teaching. In particular, a major grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation allowed 20 African students to do a PhD at Université de Montréal. Building on this experience, and thanks to additional funding from organizations such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, LeGrand has established IUSSP training workshops on the use of new methodological approaches and data for the study of low- and middle-income countries.

Will withdraw from teaching

As IUSSP president, Professor LeGrand plans to continue the restructuring of the Union’s activities initiated during his term as vice-president in order to better serve members, while also working to increase the participation of demographers in international bodies such as the United Nations and to redirect the Union’s activities toward the most pressing policy issues. He will also take on the task of organizing the next International Population Conference, to be held in Hyderabad, India, in the fall of 2021.

Far from signalling the end of his professional activities, Professor LeGrand said his withdrawal from teaching next September will afford him the time necessary to effectively fulfil his duties as president of the Union.

Watch the video

View the inaugural address given by Thomas LeGrand at the IUSSP International Population Conference held in Cape Town, South Africa, in November 2017.