M. Giovanna Merli

Duke University


M. Giovanna Merli is Professor of Public Policy, Sociology and Global Health at Duke University, the director of the Duke Population Research Center and a member of the Duke Global Health Institute. She holds a BA in China Studies from the University of Venice, Italy, an MA in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a Ph.D. in Demography from the University of Pennsylvania.


Giovanna Merli has a three-year and a three-decade long experience living and conducting research in China. Her research straddles demography, social networks, contemporary Chinese society and global health. She has focused 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 in China and Sub-Saharan Africa and, more recently, international migrants’ motivations for migration and immigrant assimilation processes.


A significant component of Dr. Merli’s research has been devoted to data collection: the design of surveys of sexual behavior and sexual networks, the evaluation of innovative network-based sampling approaches to recruit samples of hidden populations at risk of HIV/STDs and of rare populations of migrants in the U.S., Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa and the implications of the political and social context of data collection for the validity of the information collected in social surveys. Her work has been published in top U.S. and European outlets of demography (Demography, Population Studies, Demographic Research), sociology (Politics and Society; Sociological Methods and Research), China studies (The China Quarterly) and public health (Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Epidemiology and Social Science and Medicine). Professor Merli is serving and has served as a permanent or ad-hoc member of many review panels for the National Institutes of Health.