Carsey School senior demographer receives $200,000 to forward research

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ken Johnson

Ken Johnson has been named a 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellow.

Ken Johnson was so focused on the presentation he was doing for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and Health Endowment in Concord the morning of April 7 that he quickly deleted an email marked “personal and confidential” that appeared to be spam. It didn’t take him long to realize his mistake.

“A few emails down in my inbox I found one from President Huddleston congratulating me for receiving the country’s most prestigious and most generous fellowship available to advance research in the social sciences and humanities. The email I had deleted was from the president of the Carnegie Corporation informing me I had been named a fellow,” Johnson says with a laugh.

The professor of sociology and senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy is one of just 33 scholars from around the country to be named a 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. He will receive $200,000 from the Carnegie Corporation to fund his research on demographic shifts in rural America, in particular the growing Hispanic population and the Great Recession, and on the implications these demographic changes have for policy.

“Rural concerns are often overlooked in a policy environment dominated by urban-centric media, policymakers and foundations."

“This is an incredible honor,” Johnson says. “It was flattering just to be nominated but to be selected is something I’m still trying to get used to. I have studied rural America throughout my career and it is gratifying to see Carnegie’s recognition for not only this often forgotten part of America but the important role the social sciences play in understanding big policy questions.”

Johnson was nominated by President Mark Huddleston. “It gives me great pleasure to see our faculty receive the recognition they deserve on a national stage and for the Carnegie Corporation to recognize the important research being done every day at public flagship institutions,” he says.

The fellowship will allow Johnson to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the demographic data that is constantly being released, mining it for insights into the impact of the Great Recession and an influx of Hispanics on rural America.

“The growing Hispanic population and the Great Recession have significant implications for three critical factors that influence access to opportunities: child poverty, local government resources and political incorporation,” Johnson says. “Rural concerns are often overlooked in a policy environment dominated by urban-centric media, policymakers and foundations. Yet, a vibrant rural America contributes to the nation’s intellectual and cultural diversity as well as provides most of the nation’s food, fiber, minerals, clean air and clean water.”

Johnson wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, on rural America and has continued to track demographic trends and their implications for rural people, places and institutions throughout his career. This fellowship will allow him to continue to explore the demographic trends in rural America, shedding light on the implications they have for a part of America that encompasses 74 percent of the U.S. land area and 46 million people. 

Excellence in Research

Ken Johnson received the Excellence in Research Award from UNH in 2013. Watch Video


Johnson has published a book and more than 70 peer-reviewed publications including articles in leading academic journals. In addition, he is highly sought after for his expertise and ability to explain demographics for a broad audience by reporters for national media outlets like The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio and CNN. In 2013 Johnson received the university’s faculty award for excellence in research and in 2011 he was recognized with the Rural Sociological Society’s excellence in research award for outstanding contributions to rural research.

“We reviewed proposals from the nation’s preeminent scholars and thinkers, as well as from the next generation of promising thinkers and writers,” says Susan Hockfield, president emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who chaired the panel of jurors. “The large number of truly outstanding proposals makes the jury’s task difficult, but it also renews our confidence that social science and humanistic perspectives will — and must — contribute to designing solutions to today’s most complex challenges.”


All 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellows


Scott Ripley | Communications and Public Affairs | | 603-862-1855