Accessibility statement

Professor John Hobcraft

BSc (Econ) (LSE)

  • Emeritus Professor of Social Policy and Demography
  • ESRC Strategic Advisor of Data Resources


Areas of expertise

  • Pathways to adult social exclusion
  • Life-course
  • Gender and generations
  • Human fertility and reproduction
  • Partnership behaviour
  • Population policies
  • Sexual and reproductive health and rights
  • Understanding individual behaviour
  • Biomarkers and behaviour
  • Prospective cohort and panel studies

Academic biography

I am a demographer with broad interests in the social, psychological, health and biological sciences. I have worked extensively on the demography of both developing and developed countries and on demographic methods. This research has encompassed substantial work on fertility and reproduction, infant and child mortality, and partnership behaviour and on the consequences of these for policy and population change.

I have a strong interest in sexual and reproductive health and rights and in the empowerment of women, having been a lead negotiator for the UK at the 1994 UN International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo and at the five-year follow-up in New York in 1999.

I also spent around a decade researching intergenerational and life-course pathways to adult social exclusion using data from the 1958 and 1970 British birth cohort studies. This research has drawn out the importance of considering a wide range of childhood and early adult antecedents of a wide range of adult disadvantages and has also paid particular attention to ‘gendered pathways’. More recently, I am exploring pathways to educational, cognitive and behavioural performance for children using the Millennium Cohort Study.

I have also been developing an intellectual agenda and research programme concerned with the interplays of 'alleles, brains, and contexts' in understanding human behaviour. This is concerned with the interplays of nature and nurture and has involved substantial investment in learning about genetics, brain science and psychology, in order to gain a better understanding of the interplays of genes, the brain/ mind, and intermediate pathways involved in demographic, health and socioeconomic outcomes and behaviours.

I play a very active role in shaping the design and analysis of prospective cohort and panel studies. This includes: Chair of the Consortium Board and Network of National Focal Points for the Generations and Gender Programme; Vice-Chair of the Governing Board for Understanding Society and member of its Data Access Committee; Chair of the Scientific Committee and membership of the Governing Board for the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) Birth Cohort Studies and member of the Governing Board for the new UK Birth Cohort Study. I have also become a leading proponent of the inclusion of biomarkers in prospective surveys.

Professional activities

  • Elected member of Academia Europaea
  • Chair, ESRC/ MRC Birth Cohort Facility Development Group, Birth Cohort 2013, Interim Governance Group, 2011 and member of Birth Cohort 2013 Governing Board
  • Chair, Consortium Board and Network of National Focal Points, Generation and Gender Programme 
  • Vice-Chair, Governing Board for Understanding Society and member of Data Access Committee
  • Chair, CLS Birth Cohort Studies Scientific Committee and member of Governing Board 
  • Chair, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, Scientific Advisory Board 
  • Member, DNA Advisory Group, US Fragile Families Study, Princeton University
  • Member International Advisory Board on ‘Microdata research on childhood for lifelong health and welfare (the Umeå Simsam-Node) 
  • Member, Centre for Longitudinal Studies and Governing Board
  • Member, Governing Board for new UK Birth Cohort Study
  • Member, University Research Committee, York


Current research interests and projects

EU FP7 Infrastructures funded project on Generations and Gender Programme. I chair the Consortium Board [comprising 10 institutions - The Demographic Research Institute of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (HCSO-DRI), the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), Bocconi University, Statistics Norway, Norwegian Social Research (NOVA), the University of Utrecht (UU), the University of Ljubljana (UL), the University of York, the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) and the Institut national d’études démographiques (INED)] and the Network of National Focal Points [representing each participant country]. I lead Work Programme 11 on ‘genetics and biomarkers’ and am engaged in WP 9 on ‘life course and decision making’ and WP10 on ‘development of psychological instruments’. I am researching on the circumstances of young adults in 6 GGP countries.

Through the Institute for Effective Education at York I am engaged in a substantial research project which explores the individual, family, school and contextual antecedents of educational, cognitive and behavioural outcomes for children in the UK Millennium Cohort.

Collaboration with the US Fragile Families Project at Princeton and Columbia, working with Professors Sara McLanahan, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Dan Notterman and others in exploring the interplays of genes and environments in relation to a variety of behaviours and outcomes, including parenting, partnership, and depression.

Strategic Adviser (Data Resources) to the ESRC, with special responsibility for Longitudinal Studies and interdisciplinary links especially to biomedical sciences.


Recent reports

Hobcraft, J. N. and Kiernan, K. E. (2010) Predictive factors from age 3 and infancy for poor child outcomes at age 5 relating to children’s development, behaviour and health: evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study, University of York. Available online (PDF , 1,250kb)  see also: Figures and tables (PDF , 2,000kb) .

The report forms a key basis for the Department of Health PREview: Analyis of the Millennium Cohort Study

Recent Publications

Mitchell, C., Notterman, D., Brooks-Gunn, J., Hobcraft, J., Garfinkel, I., Kotenko, I., Jaeger, K., and McLanahan, S. (2011) The Role of Mother’s Genes and Environment on Postpartum Depression. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(20): 8189-8193. Available online [PDF].

Hobcraft, J. (2009). Reflections on the incorporation of biomeasures into longitudinal social surveys: an international perspective. Biodemography and Social Biology, 55(2): 252-269. Available online via Informaworld.

Hobcraft, J. (2009). Circumstances of young adults: results from the Generations and Gender Programme. In UNECE How Generations and Gender Shape Demographic Change: Towards Policies Based on Better Knowledge. New York and Geneva, United Nations. pp. 83-106. Available online via UNECE [PDF].

J. Hobcraft (2009) From eugenics to epigenetics: exploring the decoupling of human sexual and reproductive behaviours. The Galton Institute Newsletter 70. Available online [PDF].

J. Hobcraft and W. Sigle-Rushton (2009) Identifying patterns of resilience using classification and regression trees. Social Policy and Society 8(1):87-98. Available online via Cambridge Journals [PDF].

J. Hobcraft (2008) The timing and partnership context of becoming a parent: cohort and gender commonalities and differences in childhood antecedents. Demographic Research 19-34: 1281-1322. Available online [PDF].

F. Mensah and J.N. Hobcraft (2008) Childhood deprivation, health and development: associations with adult health in the 1958 and 1970 British prospective birth cohort studies. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 62(7): 599-606. Available online via BMJ [PDF].

J. Hobcraft (2008) Genomics and beyond: improving understanding and analysis of human (social, economic and demographic) behavior. In M. Weinstein, J.W. Vaupel and K.W. Wachter (Eds) Bio-social Surveys . Washington D.C., National Academies Press. Available online via National Academies Press.

J. Hobcraft (2007) Enabling transdisciplinary research in the UKHLS: Incorporating biomarkers and pathways into research on the interplays among social, economic, behavioural and health sciences. Report to ESRC. Available online (PDF , 176kb)  .

J. Hobcraft (2007) Towards a scientific understanding of demographic behaviour. Population-E 62(1):47-51 .and as ‘Pour améliorer notre compréhension des comportements démographiques.’ Population-F 62(1) : 47-52. Available online via Cairn.

J. Hobcraft (2007) Child development, the life course, and social exclusion; are the frameworks used in the UK relevant for developing countries? Chronic Poverty Research Centre Working Paper 72, University of Manchester. Available online [PDF].

J.N. Hobcraft (2006) The ABC of demographic behaviour: How the interplays of alleles, brains and contexts over the life course should shape research aimed at understanding population processes. Population Studies 60(2): 153-187. Available online via Informaworld [PDF].

J.N. Hobcraft (2006) The ICPD and the panel in context: an introduction and commentary. In UNFPA. The ICPD Vision: How Far Has the 11-Year Journey Taken Us? Report from a UNFPA Panel Discussion at the IUSSP XXV International Population Conference. New York: UNFPA (pp.4-17) Available online [PDF].

W. Sigle-Rushton, J.N. Hobcraft and K.E. Kiernan (2005) Parental disruption and subsequent disadvantage: a cross-cohort comparison. Demography 42(3):427-446. Available online via JSTOR.

J.N. Hobcraft and W. Sigle-Rushton. (2005). An exploration of childhood antecedents of female adult malaise in two British birth cohorts: Combining Bayesian model averaging and recursive partitioning. CASEpaper 95, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE (58pp). Available online [PDF].

J.N. Hobcraft. 2004. Parental, childhood and early adult legacies in the emergence of adult social exclusion: evidence on what matters from a British cohort. In P.L Chase-Lansdale, K.E. Kiernan and R.J. Friedman (Eds.) Human Development Across Lives and Generations: The Potential for Change. Cambridge U.P. (pp. 63-92) Available online via Cambridge.

J.N. Hobcraft (2004) Method, theory and substance in understanding choices about becoming a parent: progress or regress? Comment on Caldwell and Schindlmayr’s “Explanations of the fertility crisis in modern societies: a search for commonalities”. Population Studies 58(1): 81-84. Available online via JSTOR.

J.N. Hobcraft. (2003) Towards a conceptual framework on population, reproductive health, gender and poverty reduction. In UNFPA Population and Poverty: Achieving Equity, Equality and Sustainability. (UNFPA Population and Development Strategies Series No. 8). New York, United Nations Population Fund. (pp.127-135). Available online [PDF].

L. Simpson, J.N. Hobcraft and D.G. King (2003) The 2001 One Number Census and its Quality Assurance: a review. Research Briefing 6.03. London: Local Government Association.

J.N. Hobcraft. (2003) Continuity and change in pathways to young adult disadvantage: results from a British birth cohort. CASEpaper 66, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE (43pp). Available online [PDF].

J.N. Hobcraft. (2003) Reflections on demographic, evolutionary, and genetic approaches to the study of human reproductive behavior. In K.W. Wachter and R.A. Bulatao (Eds.) Offspring: Human Fertility Behavior in Biodemographic Perspective. Washington D.C., National Academies Press. (pp.339-357). Available online via National Academies Press.

J.N. Hobcraft. (2002) Moving beyond elaborate description: towards understanding choices about parenthood. In M. Macura and G. Beets (Eds.) The Dynamics of Fertility and Partnership in Europe: Insights and Lessons from Comparative Research Vol. I. New York and Geneva, United Nations. (pp. 131-143). Available online [PDF].

J.N. Hobcraft. (2002) Social exclusion and the generations. In J. Hills, J. LeGrand and D. Piachaud (editors) Understanding Social Exclusion. Oxford UP (pp. 62-83). Available in part online via Google Books.

J.N. Hobcraft and K.E.Kiernan (2001) Childhood poverty, early motherhood and adult social exclusion. British Journal of Sociology 52:495-517. Available online via Wiley Interscience.

C. Stanton, J.N. Hobcraft, K. Hill, N. Kodjjogbe, W.T. Mapeta, F. Munene, M. Naghavi, V. Rabeza, B. Sisouphanthong, and O. Campbell (2001) Every death counts: measurement of maternal mortality via a census. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 79(7):657-664. (Also published in French as ‘ Chaque décès compte: mesure de la mortalité maternelle à partir des recensements’ and in Spanish as ‘Todas las muertes cuentan: medición de la mortalidad materna mediante datos censales’). Available online [PDF].

J.N. Hobcraft. (2000) The roles of schooling and educational qualifications in the emergence of adult social exclusion. CASEpaper 43, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE (69pp). Available online [PDF].

J.N. Hobcraft (2000) The consequences of female empowerment for child well-being: a review of concepts, issues and evidence in a post-Cairo context . In H. Presser and G. Sen (Eds.) Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Processes: Moving Beyond Cairo. Oxford U.P. for IUSSP. Available in part via Google Books.

Professor John Hobcraft

Contact details

Professor John Hobcraft
Emeritus Professor of Demography and Social Policy