Leontine Alkema

Associate Professor
431 Arnold House


Leontine Alkema


M.S., Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, 2003; Ph.D., University of Washington, 2008; Postdoctoral, Columbia University, 2008-09.

Area(s) of Specialization: 

Bayesian inference, Statistical Demography, Global child, maternal and reproductive health.

Research Description: 

My primary research focus is the development of statistical models to assess and interpret demographic and population-level health trends and differentials, generally on a national level for all countries globally, but also sub-nationally, focusing on developing countries. I have developed estimation and projection methods for key global indicators, including child and maternal mortality rates, the total fertility rate, and the unmet need for contraceptive methods. One of the main methodological challenges in this area of research arises from the need to capture data-driven trends in data-rich populations, while also producing reliable estimates and projections for populations where data availability is limited and where only proxy indicator data are available. My research has addressed these challenges for various indicators via the conceptualization, development, and validation of context-specific Bayesian models. Key components of these models are hierarchical submodels to allow for ‘sharing’ of information across populations to inform the estimates and projections for data-sparse populations, and the parametrization of biases and measurement error variances to account for data quality issues. I collaborate with various United Nations agencies to make available improved estimation methods and resulting estimates to diverse international audiences.

Key Publications: 

L. Alkema, J.R. New (2014). Global estimation of child mortality using a Bayesian B-spline bias-reduction method. The Annals of Applied Statistics 8(4): 2122–2149.

L. Alkema, F. Chao, D. You, J. Pedersen, C.C. Sawyer (2014). National, regional, and global sex ratios of infant, child, and under-5 mortality and identification of countries with outlying ratios: a systematic assessment. The Lancet Global Health 2(9): e521–e530.

L. Say, D. Chou, A. Gemmill, Ö. Tunçalp, A. B. Moller, J. Daniels, A. M. Gülmezoglu, M. Temmerman, L. Alkema (2014). Global causes of maternal deaths: A WHO systematic analysis. The Lancet Global Health 2(6): e323–e3332.

L. Alkema, V. Kantorova, C. Menozzi, A. Biddlecom (2013). National, regional and global rates and trends in contraceptive prevalence and unmet need for family planning between 1990 and 2015: a systematic and comprehensive analysis. The Lancet 381(9878): 1642–1652.

L. Alkema, A. E. Raftery, P. Gerland, S.J. Clark, F. Pelletier, T. Buettner, G. K. Heilig (2011). Probabilistic projections of the total fertility rate for all countries. Demography 48(3): 815–839.