Rachel Dunifon
Rachel Dunifon
The Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean, College of Human Ecology
Policy Analysis and Management

1300 F Martha Van Rensselaer Hall



Rachel Dunifon is the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology and Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy. She received a B.A. in Psychology from Davidson College and a Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University. Prior to joining Cornell as a faculty member in 2001 she was the recipient of an NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan.

Dunifon’s research focuses on child and family policy, examining the ways in which policies, programs and family settings influence the development of less-advantaged children. Her recent book, You’ve Always Been There for Me: Understanding the Lives of Grandchildren Raised by Grandparents (2018) draws upon unique multi-method data to understand dynamics in households in which grandparents are raising their grandchildren.

Dunifon is co-director of Project 2GEN, which combines research, policy, and practice to address the needs of vulnerable children and their parents together.  Dunifon and her colleagues were awarded the inaugural William T. Grant Foundation Institutional Challenge Grant for their project titled "Protecting Vulnerable Children and Families in the Crosshairs of the Opioid Epidemic: A Research-Practice Partnership".

As PI Dunifon has won numerous externally funded research grants, including from the National Institutes of Health, the USDA, and the William T. Grant Foundation. Her work has been published in top journals in developmental psychology (Child Development, Developmental Psychology), public policy (Journal of Policy Analysis and Management), and family demography (Demography, Journal of Marriage and Family).

Dunifon studies child and family policy, with a focus on factors influencing the development of less-advantaged children.  Specific research topics include the relationship between maternal employment conditions and children's health and development; the well-being of children in various family living arrangements, such as single-parenthood and cohabitation; and the role of grandparents in the lives of youth.  Her forthcoming book, You've Always Been there for Me (Rutgers University Press) examines the lives of grandchildren who are raised by their grandparents.

Her work has been supported by a wide range of sources.  Rachel was awarded the William T. Grant Foundation's inaugural Institutional Challenge Grant Award.  She was also awarded an R01 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Schriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to study the influence on children of maternal employment patterns.

Dunifon's research has been published in Demography, Child Development, Developmental Psychology, and Journal of Marriage and Family.

Dunifon, Rachel (2018).  “You’ve Always Been there for Me”: Understanding the Lives of Children Raised by Grandparents.  Rutgers University Press.

Dunifon, Rachel, Chris Near and Kathleen Ziol-Guest (2018).  Backup Parents, Playmates, Friends: Grandparents’ Time with Grandchildren.  Journal of Marriage and Family. DOI:10.1111/jomf.12472

 Dunifon, Rachel, Paula Fomby and Kelly Musick (2017). Siblings and Children’s Time Use in the United States. Demographic Research, 37: 1611-1624. 

Amorim, Mariana, Rachel Dunifon and Natasha Pilkauskas (2017). The Magnitude and Timing of Grandparental Coresidence During Childhood in the United States. Demographic Research, 37(52): 1695-1706.

Crosnoe, Rob and Rachel Dunifon (2017). “A Developmental Perspective on the Link Between Parents’ Employment and Children’s Obesity”. American Psychologist, 72(5): 474-486.

Su, Jessica and Rachel Dunifon (2016). “Nonstandard Schedules and Private Safety Nets Among Working Mothers”. Journal of Marriage and Family. DOI:10.1111/jomf.12358

 Meier, Anne, Kelly Musick, Sarah Flood and Rachel Dunifon (2016). “Mothering Experiences: How Single-Parenthood and Employment Shift the Emotional Valence of Parenting”. Demography, 53: 649-674.

Pilkauskas, Natasha, and Rachel Dunifon (2016). “Understanding Grandfamilies: Characteristics of Grandparents, Nonresident Parents, and Children”. Journal of Marriage and Family, 78: 623-633. 

Su, Jessica, Rachel Dunifon, and Sharon Sassler (2015). “Better for Baby? The Retreat from Mid-Pregnancy Marriage and Implications for Parenting and Child Well-Being”. Demography, 52(4): 1167-1194.




Dunifon is an active member of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, the Population Association of America, the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research and the Cornell Population Center. 

Along with Laura Tach, Rachel leads Project 2GEN, which uses a two-generational approach to policy and practice to address the needs of vulnerable families (see recent Cornell Chronicle article).


Dean, College of Human Ecology, Cornell University

1999, Ph.D., Human Development & Social Policy, Northwestern University

1998, M.A., Human Development & Social Policy, Northwestern University

1994, B.A., cum laude, Psychology, Davidson College

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