Portrait of Deborah Levison
266 Humphrey School
Currently reviewing Ph.D. applicants
Global Policy Area
Social Policy Area
Areas of Expertise
International development; child labor and education; survey research involving children; human rights of children; population studies


    Deborah Levison holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan, where she also trained at the Population Studies Center. An applied microeconomist with training in international development economics, economic demography, and labor economics, Levison is a professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, with 10 teaching awards to her record.

    Much of Levison’s research has focused on the work (both labor force and "chores") and schooling of children in low-income countries, typically via quantitative analysis of survey data; more recent projects also include qualitative approaches. While on sabbatical in Tanzania, Levison became interested in connections between environmental sustainability, livelihoods, and children’s time use. In 2011, she and collaborators piloted a study in Kondoa, Tanzania, examining connections between youth’s chores and schooling, on the one hand, and environmental degradation on the other hand. In 2024, she and collaborators are using MICS data to analyze hazardous child work globally. 

    Animating Children’s Views (ACV)is a project of Levison and collaborator Anna Bolgrien. It develops a methodology to implement Article 12 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child in the Global South, which states that children should be listened to on matters that concern them. They piloted surveys in Tanzania in 2018 and in Nepal in 2019, to demonstrate that using cartoon videos allowed young people to express opinions on topics that concerned them. 

    Levison is co-investigator on the IPUMS-International project, which is dedicated to collecting, preserving, harmonizing, and distributing census data from around the world to researchers, absolutely free, from


    PhD in Economics (University of Michigan, 1991)

    MA in Economics (University of Michigan, 1987)

    BA in Economics (Smith College, 1982)

    DeGraff, D. S., Levison, D. & Dungumaro, E. (2017). Environmental Chores, Household Time Use and Gender: A Case Study from Rural Tanzania. In Gender and Time Use in a Global Context: The Economics of Employment and Unpaid Labor 407-434). Palgrave MacMillan: New York, NY United States

    Assaad, R. & Levison, D. (2017). Facing the Global Challenge of Youth Employment. In Did the Millennium Development Goals Work? Meeting Future Challenges with Past Lessons 151-189). Policy Press: Bristol United Kingdom