The signature theme of our research is human and social capital in the urban context. The PRC’s urban emphasis is rooted in the emerging significance of global trends in urbanization, the ongoing and pressing concerns regarding urban populations in the U.S. and the long-standing interest in urban questions among our faculty. With this focus, the tools of demography and theoretical precepts of human and social capital can be brought to urban studies. The urban context is defined broadly by the processes that are relevant to metropolitan areas, as well as questions that bear on issues related to central- or inner-city areas, such as the causes and consequences of poverty, racial and ethnic segregation, housing and school quality, family and union formation patterns, and health disparities. The location of the PRC in Chicago has led to much research taking advantage of the fruitful urban context in which the Center is located.

Within the focus on human and social capital in the urban context, the three central sub-themes of the research activities of the Population Research Center are:

Each theme expresses several hallmarks of our program: its multidisciplinary nature, its dual emphasis on theory and evidence and on concepts and measurement, and its attention to social policies that are demographic in nature. The three are neither wholly distinct from one another nor exhaustive in capturing the interests and contributions of our Center's research associates.

PRC scholars also contribute to the field of demographic analysis by developing novel and creative research Methods and Tools.