William H. Frey

Senior Fellow – Brookings Metro

William H. Frey, Senior Fellow with Brookings Metro, is an internationally regarded demographer, known for his research on urban populations, migration, immigration, race, aging, political demographics, and his expertise on the U.S. census. Frey’s latest book is “Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America” (Brookings Institution Press, 2018).

Frey’s current research agenda involves examining 2020 U.S. census practices and results, tracking voting trends associated with the presidential and midterm elections, and monitoring demographic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Frey’s demographic expertise also draws from his four decades at the University of Michigan, where he is research professor with the university’s Institute for Social Research and Population Studies Center. Frey has authored over 200 publications and several books including “Regional and Metropolitan Growth and Decline in the U.S.”(Russell Sage, 1988, with Alden Speare, Jr.), “America By the Numbers: A Field Guide to the U.S. Population” (The New Press, 2001, with Bill Abresch and Jonathan Yeasting), and “Social Atlas of the United States” (Allyn and Bacon, 2008 with Amy Beth Anspach and John Paul DeWitt).

Frey has directed projects funded by the National Science Foundation, NICHD Center for Population Research, and several foundations. Frey has contributed to the 1995 President’s “National Urban Policy Report,” HUD’s “State of the Cities 2000 report,” the Russell Sage Foundation’s census project, and has authored numerous research reports, articles and op-eds on urban trends published by Brookings.  With Ruy Teixeira and Robert Griffin, Frey is co-director of the multi-institutional States of Change project, which traces the history and projects future demographic scenarios of the U.S. electorate. Frey has been a consultant to the U.S. Census Bureau, and a contributing editor to American Demographics magazine. He has also been active in creating demographic media for use by educators, policy makers, and the general public (examples at frey-demographer.org; ssdan.net; and CensusScope.org).

Frey received a Ph.D. in sociology from Brown University in 1974. He has been a visiting research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria); the Andrew W. Mellon Research Scholar at the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, D.C., and the Hewlett Visiting Scholar at Child Trends in Washington, D.C. Frey is a member of the Population Association of America, the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, the American Sociological Association, and is a past fellow at the Urban Land Institute.

Frey is known for his ability to communicate demographic trends to general and policy audiences. His research has been written about in such diverse venues as The Economist, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, National Journal, The New Yorker, and Forbes. Frey’s commentary and observations have been featured on broadcast media, including NPR’s All Things Considered, PBS NewsHour, NBC’s Nightly News, ABC’s World News, CBS’s Evening News, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, and print and online media including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and Axios.

  • Areas of Expertise

    • Demography
    • U.S. census
    • Migration
    • Immigration
    • Race
    • Aging
    • Urban and metropolitan demographics
  • Current Positions

    • Research Professor, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
  • Past Positions

    • Professor and Senior Demographer, Center for Social and Demographic Analysis, State University of New York (1999-2000)
    • Research Scientist, Population Studies Center, and Adjunct Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan (1981-1998)
    • Project Director and Associate, Center for Demography and Ecology, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin (1976-1981)
    • Research Associate, Center for Demography and Ecology, Department of Sociology, University of Washington (1974-1975)
    • Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Rutgers University (1973-1974)
  • Education

    • Ph.D. (1974), M.A. (1971), Brown University
    • B.S., Ursinus College, 1969
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