Sarah Harper


Professor of Gerontology and Senior Research Fellow Nuffield College

MA, Cantab; DPhil, Oxon

Tel : +44 (0) 1865 612802)
E-mail :

Sarah Harper (MA (Cantab.) Cambridge; DPhil (Oxon) Oxford) is Professor of Gerontology at Oxford University and Director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, a multi-disciplinary research unit concerned with the implications of future population change.

Sarah trained as an ethnographer and her early research focused on migration and the social implications of demographic change. Her current research concerns globalization and global population ageing. In particular she considers the impact at the global, societal and individual level of the age-structural shift from predominantly young to predominantly older societies, addressing such questions as the implications of the widespread falls in fertility and growth in extreme longevity. Particular research interests are the impact of these demographic shifts on intergenerational relationships, work, migration, and the environment. Sarah also leads The Clore Population-Environment Interactions Programme which unites  demographers, economists, anthropologists, philosophers and environmentalists to address through research, modeling and scenarios, the range of complex interactions between environmental and demographic change over the first half of the 21st century.

Following her early post-doctoral research in China, Sarah has continued her interest in the Asia–Pacific Region. She has worked and lectured in Japan, China, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, and was the 1st holder of the International Chair in Old Age Financial Security established at the University of Malaya in 2009. She is co-PI on the Oxford Global Ageing Study, a survey of 44,000 men and women aged over 40 in 24 countries.

Sarah originally trained with the BBC as a News and Current Affairs reporter and producer. Before returning to Oxford she was a professor in Public Policy at the University of Chicago and remains a Research Associate there at the Center of Demography and Economics.

She serves on the Royal Society working group on Population Change: People and the Planet, and Council of Advisors of Population Europe. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the World Demographic Association, the Advisory Board of English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, and the Scientific Board of Natural England, and a Governor of the Pensions Policy Institute.  Sarah is a former Trustee of Third Age Employment Network, member of the Wellcome Trust Health Consequences of Population Change Panel and WEF Global Agenda Council on Ageing; Global Advisor on Ageing to HSBC and Chair of the Global Commission on Ageing. She was the author of Migration, Ageing and the Environment, for the UK Government Foresight Programme on Global Migration.

Author and editor of several books including Ageing Societies: Myths, Challenges and Opportunities, Hodder Arnold, (2006) and the International Handbook of Ageing and Public Policy, Edward Elgar (forthcoming), Population Challenges: growth, decline and migration, OUP (forthcoming), Sarah also co-edits the Journal of Population Ageing, published by Springer.

Recent professional commitments

  • Member, Council of Advisors of Population Europe
  • World Demographic Association: Advisory Board
  • Royal Society "Population and the Planet" Working Group
  • Scientific Board of Natural England
  • Global Agenda Council, World Economic Forum Ageing Society 2010
  • International  Chair in Old Age Financial Security  University of Malaya 2009-2010
  • Governor, Pensions Policy Institute
  • English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) Advisory Board
  • Global Advisor on Ageing Issues to HSBC
  • Member of Scientific Programme Committee of IFA 2006 (Copenhagen) and 2008 (Montreal)
  • Member of Northern Ireland Changing Ageing Partnership
  • Co-ordinator IARU - International Alliance of Research Universities - Oxford Group on Ageing
  • Member, Wellcome Trust Health Consequences of Population Change Panel
  • Member, Help the Aged’s Research Strategy Committee and Help the Aged’s Social Policy Committee
  • Trustee, Third Age Employment Network
  • International Assessor, Swedish National Academy, Institute of Ageing Initiative, Sweden
  • International Collaborator, Australian Research Council/NHMRC Research Network in Ageing Well Member

Recent publications and presentations


  • International Handbook of of Ageing and Public Policy, Edward Elgar (forthcoming)
  • Ageing in Asia. Routledge, London. Edited with Roger Goodman, 2008
  • Ageing Societies: Myths, Challenges and Opportunities, Hodder Arnold, London, 2006.
  • Families in Ageing Societies, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004.



Current PhD students

  • Francesca Ghillani: The Dynamics of Bodily Changes and Self in Old Age: a Comparative Study
  • Burcu Ozdemir: Intergenerational Solidarity between Adult Children and Elderly Parents in Turkey
  • Patricia O'Neill: Chinese Women Negotiating Traditional Family Norms and the Modern World; Implications for Ageing Parents
  • Matthew Tye: Increasing Longevity in Vietnam: Ageing and The Life Course

Recently Graduated PhD Students

  • Chul Hoi Koo (2010): Reinforcement of income Inequality in Later Life
  • Koichi Mikami (2010): Technology as a Social Process:  Cultural Theory Approach to Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine in the UK and Japan
  • Samir K. Sinha (2008): The Sociology of Interprofessional Relations:  A Case Study of English Care Trusts