OPR was founded in 1936 by Frank Wallace Notestein as one of the first population research centers in the nation, and one of the world’s first demographic training programs. He went on to serve as the first director of the United Nations Population Division, and subsequently to lead the Population Council.
After Notestein left for the UN, a visiting demographer at Princeton, Wilfred D. Borrie was assigned to direct OPR in 1959, while Ansley Coale, appointed to succeed Notestein completed his leave. Borrie, a Professor of Demography at the Australian National University, was that country’s first full-time academic population studies researcher, and played a significant role in establishing the field of demography in Australia. He chaired the UNESCO conference on international migration, as well as the UN Population Commission.
Ansley J Coale directed OPR from 1959-1975. During Coale’s tenure, he was also president of the Population Association of America (PAA) (1967-1968), and was subsequently president of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) from 1977-1981.
Coale was succeeded by Charles Westoff, who directed OPR from 1976-1991. He was the Executive Director of the US Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, and played a major role in the World Fertility Survey, and the Demographic and Health Survey which succeeded it, pre-eminent global surveys. He served as president of the PAA, and was elected as IUSSP Laureate in 2007.
Westoff was succeeded by James Trussell, who directed OPR from 1992-1997, 2002-2006, and in 2008. Trussell made significant contributions to the study of contraception, served on the council of IUSSP and received the Felicia Stewart Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception and the American Society for Emergency Contraception.
Marta Tienda was the first woman to direct OPR, leading the organization from 1998-2001. Tienda has made major contributions to the study of Hispanics in America, migration, and social inequality. She served as president of PAA in 2002.
Noreen Goldman served as OPR director in 2007 and 2016. Goldman has made significant contributions to the study of socio-economic and bio-social determinants of adult health in the US, as well as Taiwan and Guatemala. She has served as Vice President of PAA.
Douglas Massey served as director of OPR from 2011-2015 and 2017-2020. He has made landmark contributions to the study of racial inequality in America, international migration, and urban poverty and stratification. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and has served as the president of PAA and the American Academy of Political and Social Science.