Professor Peter McDonald

Emeritus Professor of Demography, School of Demography
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: 0400 252149

Areas of expertise

  • Migration 160303
  • Population Trends And Policies 160305
  • Public Policy 160510
  • Studies Of Asian Society 169903
  • Labour Economics 140211
  • Fertility 160302
  • Social Policy 160512
  • Family And Household Studies 160301
  • Demography 1603


Peter McDonald is Emeritus Professor of Demography in the School of Demography, College of Arts and Social Sciences. He was President of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) for the years, 2010-2013. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and an inaugural Public Policy Fellow of the ANU. He is frequently consulted on the issue of population futures (causes, consequences and policies) by governments around the world, especially in Australia, Europe and East Asia. In 2008, he was appointed as a Member in the Order of Australia. In 2015, he received the Irene B. Taueber Award, the major award of the Population Association of America. He is Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research. He is an advisor to Population Europe and was a member of the Australian Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration in 2013-14. Prior to his present appointment he was head of research at the Australian Institute of Family Studies for a period of 11 years. He has also worked at the Demographic Institute of the University of Indonesia, at the World Fertility Survey, London and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Throughout his career, he has been actively engaged in the teaching and promotion of demography as a discipline while applying interdisciplinary approaches in his research. He has a PhD degree in Demography from the Australian National University and an Honours degree in Economics Statistics from the University of New South Wales. He is now employed as Professor of Demography in the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne.

Researcher's projects

Peter McDonald's recent work is focused on population policy, immigration, labour force and ageing in Australia, on the demography of Indonesia, and on theory relating to low fertility, the implications of low fertility for population futures and upon related policy options.

McDonald, P. 2000. Gender equity, social institutions and the future of fertility, Journal of Population Research, 17(1), 1-16. (PDF 69kb)

McDonald, P. 2000. Gender equity in theories of fertility transition, Population and Development Review, 26(3), 427-439.

McDonald, P. 2001. Low fertility not politically sustainable, Population Today 29(6) 3-8.

McDonald, P. 2001. Work-family policies are the right approach to the prevention of low fertility, People and Place 9(3) 17-27. (PDF 135kb)

McDonald, P. 2002. Sustaining fertility through public policy: the range of options, Population-E, 57(3): 417-446.

McDonald, P. 2003. Reforming family support policy in Australia, People and Place, 11(2): 1-15. (PDF 159kb)

McDonald, P. 2003. Family policy, in Demeny, P. and McNicoll, G. Encyclopedia of Population, Macmillan, New York.

McDonald, P. 2006. 'An assessment of policies that support having children from the perspectives of equity, efficiency and efficacy'. Vienna Demographic Yearbook 2006: 213-234.

McDonald, P. 2006. Low fertility and the state: The efficacy of policy. Population and Development Review, 32(3): 485-510.


He has written extensively on the demography of the family in both developed and developing country settings and on theory related to family change. From 1996, he has been a principal investigator in the Australian longitudinal panel survey, Negotiating the Life Course.

McDonald, P. 1985. Social organisation and nuptiality in developing societies, in John Cleland and John Hobcraft eds, Reproductive Change in Developing Countries, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp.87-114.

McDonald, P. 1993. Convergence or Compromise in Historical Family Change? in Elza Berquo and Peter Xenos eds., Family Systems and Cultural Change, Clarendon Press Oxford.

McDonald, P. 1994. Families in developing countries: idealised morality and theories of family change, in Cho, L. and Yada, M. (eds), Tradition and Change in the Asian Family, East-West Center, Honolulu.

McDonald, P. 1995. Australian Families: Values and Behaviour', in Hartley, R. (ed), Families and Cultural Diversity in Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

McDonald, P. 1996. Demographic life transitions: an alternative theoretical paradigm', Health Transition Review, Supplement 6.

McDonald, P. 2003. Transformations in the Australian family, in Khoo, S-E. and McDonald, P. The Transformation of Australia's Population, 1970-2030. UNSW Press, Sydney, 77-103.


In recent years, he has published on population dynamics and their implications for ageing and the labour force. This has included several recent papers on the measurement of international migration and on outcomes for international migrants in Australia. With Siew-Ean Khoo and Graeme Hugo and with funding support from the Australian Research Council and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, he has recently conducted a survey of the experiences, motivations and intentions of temporary long-term business migrants to Australia and their employers.

McDonald, P. and Kippen, R.
Population futures for Australia: the policy alternatives, Parliamentary Library Seminar Series, Research Paper 5, 1999, Canberra: Australian Parliamentary Library.

McDonald, P. and Kippen, R. 1999. Ageing: the social and demographic dimensions, in Policy Implications of the Ageing of Australia's Population, Productivity Commission and Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, Melbourne, 47-70. (PDF 92kb)

McDonald, P. and Kippen, R. 2001. The impact of immigration on the ageing of Australia's population, in Siddique, M. (ed.), International Migration into the 21st Century, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, 153-177.

McDonald, P. and Kippen, R. 2001. Labour supply prospects in 16 developed countries, 2000-2050, Population and Development Review 27(1), 1-32.

Khoo, S-E., McDonald, P., Giorgias, D. and Birrell, R. 2002. Outcomes for Second Generation Australians, Australian Centre for Population Research, Canberra. (PDF 520kb)

McDonald, P. 2003. Australia's future population: Population policy in a low-fertility society, in Khoo, S-E. and McDonald, P. The Transformation of Australia's Population, 1970-2030. UNSW Press, Sydney, 266-279.

McDonald, P. and Temple, J. 2006. Immigration and the Supply of Complex Problem Solvers in the Australian Economy. Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, 39pp. (PDF 230kb)

Khoo, S.E., McDonald, P., Voigt-Graf, C. and Hugo, G. 2007. 'A global labor market: factors motivating the sponsorship and temporary migration of skilled workers to Australia'. International Migration Review, 41 (2): 479-509.

More broadly, he is interested in social change and its theoretical explanations and the processes of adaptation of policy to social change. Included under this heading is recent work on the projection of housing demand in regions of Australia and explanation of changing rates of home ownership in Australia.

McDonald P. 2002. Issues in child care policy in Australia, Australian Economic Review, 35(2): 197-203.

McDonald, P. and Baxter, J. 2005. Home ownership among young people in Australia: in decline or just delayed? Australian Journal of Social Issues, 40(4): 471-487.

McDonald, P. and Temple, J. 2006. 'Residential housing demand in Australia, 2006-2016'. TAKE 5 (the Journal of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects).

McDonald, P., Kippen, R. and Temple, J. 2006. 'Net transition probabilities: an approach to subnational level projections of households and housing demand based on census data'. Population, Space and Place. 12(6): 479-495, November/December.


With M. Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi (University of Tehran) and Meimanat Hosseini-Chavoshi, he has conducted the Iran Fertility Transition Survey in 2002 and the Iran Low Fertility Survey 2006 with funding support from the Wellcome Trust. The outcome will be a book to be published by Springer on the reasons behind the startling transition in Iran's fertility.

Abbasi-Shavazi, M., Mehyrer, A., Jones, G. and McDonald, P. 2002. Revolution, war and modernization: population policy and fertility change in Iran, Journal of Population Research, 19(1): 25-46. (PDF 197kb)

Abbasi-Shavazi, M. J. and McDonald, P. 2006. 'Fertility Decline in the Islamic Republic of Iran: 1972-2000', Asian Population Studies. 2(3): 217-237.

Hosseini-Chavoshi, M., McDonald, P. and Abbasi-Shavazi, M-J. 2006. 'The Iranian fertility decline, 1981-1999: An application of the synthetic parity progression ration method' Population-E, 61 (5-6).

McDonald, P. and Abbasi-Shavazi, M. J. 2007. 'The place of religion in the Iranian fertility transition', in H. James (ed.), Civil Society, Religion and Global Governance. RoutledgeCurzon.


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