Ron J. Lesthaeghe (born 1945) earned his license degree (1967) and his PhD (1970) in the Social Sciences at the University of Ghent, and obtained his MA in Sociology (1968) from Brown University. He has been a research associate at the Office of Population Research at Princeton University (1971-73), and worked for the Population Council as regional representative for West and Central Africa (1975-76). Since 1971 he has been lecturer and then professor of Demography and Social Science Methodology at the Free University of Brussels (VUB). From 1988 to 1991 he was Dean of the faculty of economics, sociology and political science at that university. Emeritus at the VUB since 2005.
He has been awarded visiting professorships at the Institut des Sciences Politiques de Paris (Colson Chair, 1989-93), the Université Catholique de Louvain (Leclercq Chair, 1996-97), at the University of Antwerp (Belgian Franqui Chair, 1999-2000), and at Harvard University (Erasmus Chair, 2001-02). He is a member of both the Belgian and the Dutch Academies of Science. Served on the Fachbeirat of the Max Planck Institut für Demografie in Rostock, Germany (1999-2004). In 2003 he received the Irene Taueber Award of the Population Association of America (PAA) and the Office of Population Research of Princeton University. Ranked 10th among the most influential demographers in the period 1950-2000 by 637 colleagues responding in CICRED demographers survey (Chasteland et al., 2004). Recipient in 2005 of the quinquenial Ernest-John Solvay Prize of the FWO (highest Belgian Natl. Science Foundation award in the social sciences and humanities). Received the 2008 Life Time Award from the International Union of the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP). Visiting Professor at the Departments of Sociology/Population Studies Centers of the Universities of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and of California (Irvine).
Since 2010, Ron has been a regular visitor at the Centre d’Estudis Demografics (CED) at the Autonoma university in Barcelona, where he has been collaborating on the project concerning the rise of unmarried cohabitation in the Americas. In 2014, he was elected as foreign member of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and of the US National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C. (Class 53 – Social & Political Sciences).
Most of his research has been in the various sub-fields of demography: historical, social and economic, and mainly covering populations of Europe and of sub-Saharan Africa. He has also done research in the fields of cultural change in Europe and of ethnic minorities studies. His published work includes books on “The decline of Belgian Fertility” (1977, Princeton Univ. Press), “Child-spacing in Tropical Africa”(1981, Academic Press), “Production and Reproduction in Sub-Sahara Africa”(1989, University of California Press), “Communities and Generations – Turkish and Moroccan Populations in Belgium” (2000,VUB-Press). He edited “Meaning and Choice: Values Orientations and Life Course Decisions” which brings together the results of longitudinal surveys conducted in the US and Western Europe (2002, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, The Hague). He is also editor and co-author of a number of books in Dutch such as: “Demografische Alternatieven voor België” (De Sikkel, 1979), “Diversiteit in Sociale Verandering – Turkse en Marokkaanse Vrouwen in België”, (1997, VUB-Press), and “Eerst Optellen, dan Delen – Demografie, Economie en Sociale Zekerheid” (Garant, 1998).