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Maria-Giovanna Merli

Professor, Public Policy and Global Health
Sanford School of Public Policy

(919) 613-9305

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Giovanna Merli


M. Giovanna Merli is a Professor of Public Policy and Sociology and a member of the Duke Global Health Institute. Her research straddles three disciplinary realms: demography, contemporary Chinese society and global health. She focuses on a range of population and health issues in developing countries that intersect frontline public policy, such as the role of China's population control program in lowering fertility preferences and fertility rates in China, the social and behavioral determinants of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and the evaluation of methodological approaches to sample hard-to-reach and hidden populations at high risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS. Merli combines her passion for demography and her 20-years experience with living in, studying and conducting research in China in her most recent work. China is a very low HIV prevalence setting but infection rates are high in some population groups whose behaviors are driving the Chinese epidemic. Thus, it is crucial to understand the social and behavioral patterns that put population groups with different risk profiles in contact with each other. Merli's work examines the social and behavioral factors that create conditions which lead individuals in China to acquire HIV infection. This work is crucial to inform the design of appropriate interventions to prevent further spread of infection. Merli also studies HIV/AIDS in another, very different setting of the global HIV epidemic, South Africa, where the AIDS morbidity and mortality crises are tantamount to a perturbation of the age structure. HIV/AIDS in South Africa mostly affects individuals in the mid-adult ages and her work focuses on understanding the consequences of this mortality and morbidity crisis for families and households. Research in China is my comparative advantage.



Title Number Level Semester Requirements Fulfilled
Demographic Measures and Concepts
Crosslisted as PUBPOL 840S
Was: GLHLTH 10285
GRAD Only FALL 2017 MSC: Methods
MSC: Elective
Demographic Measures and Concepts GLHLTH 761S
Was: GLHLTH 10285
GRAD Only FALL 2016 MSC: Methods
MSC: Elective
Introductory Demographic Measures and Concepts

This is an introductory course in demographic concepts, measures and techniques. The primary objective is to learn how demographers measure population change, mortality, morbidity, fertility, marriage, divorce, and migration. The course also illustrates the broader application of demographic measurement and techniques to other aspects of society and population health, such as educational attainment, labor force participation, linkages between mortality, morbidity and disability, and health and mortality differentials. The understanding of the materials is aided by a series of problem sets which are designed to help students learn to apply demographic methods.

Course Notes:
Was: GLHLTH 250
UG/GRAD FALL 2016 MSC: Elective
MINOR: Elective
PhD: Methods
MAJOR: Focused Study


Recent Publications

Merli, M. Giovanna, Ashton Verdery, Ted Mouw, Jing Li. 2016.Sampling Migrants from their Social Networks: The Demography and Social Organization of Chinese Migrants in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Migration Studies, 4(2): 182-214

Merli, M. Giovanna Merli, James Moody, Jeffrey Smith, Jing Li, Sharon Weir and Xiangsheng Chen. 2015. Challenges to Recruiting Representative Samples of Female Sex Workers in China using Respondent Driven Sampling. Social Science & Medicine 125: 79-93.

Verdery, Ashton, M. Giovanna Merli, James Moody, Jeffrey Smith, Jacob Fisher. 2015. Assessment of multiple Respondent Driven Sampling estimators under real and ideal recruitment conditions in an empirical population of female sex workers in China. Epidemiology 26(5):661-665.

Merli, M. Giovanna, James Moody, Joshua Mendelsohn and Robin Gauthier. 2015. Heterosexual mixing in Shanghai: Are heterosexual contact patterns compatible with an HIV/AIDS epidemic? Demography 52(3):919-943.

Felicia F. Tian*, M. Giovanna Merli, Zhenchao Qian. 2014. Job Mobility and Extramarital Sex in Reform-Era Urban China: Evidence from Shanghai. Chinese Sociological Review 46(1):60-82.

He, Wei*, Sherman James, M. Giovanna Merli, Hui Zheng. 2014. Increasing Socioeconomic gap in Child Overweight/Obesity in China. American Journal of Public Health 104(1):e14-e22.

Jake Fisher*, M. Giovanna Merli. 2014. Stickiness of Respondent-Driven Sampling Recruitment Chains. Network Science. 2(2):298-301.

Kimani*, S., M. Watt, M.G. Merli, D. Skinner, B. Myers, D. Pieterse, JC MacFarlane, CS. Meade. 2014. Respondent driven sampling is an effective method for engaging methamphetamine smokers into HIV prevention research in South Africa. Drug Alcohol Dependence 143:134-140.

Li, Jing, Xiangsheng Chen, M. Giovanna Merli, Sharon Weir, Gail Henderson. 2012. Systematic Differences in Risk Behaviours and Syphilis Prevalence across Types of Female Sex Workers: a Preliminary Study in Liuzhou, China. Sexually Transmitted Diseases: 39(3)

Merli, M. Giovanna and S. Philip Morgan. 2012. Below Replacement Fertility Preferences in Shanghai. Population. English Edition.

Tu, Xiaowen, Chen Xiao, Fang Guanghong, Merli M. Giovanna, Gu Weiming, Yang Yang, Gao Ersheng. 2010. Factors associated with sexually transmitted disease infections among female sex workers in Shanghai, China. Chinese Journal of Public Health (Zhongguo Gonggong Weisheng Zazhi), in Chinese.

Merli, M. Giovanna and Sara Hertog. 2010. Masculine sex ratios, population age structure and the potential spread of HIV in China. Demographic Research 22(3):63-94.