Professor, and Senior Associate Dean for Research and Outreach
1300 F Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Ithaca, New York
Policy Analysis and Management



Rachel Dunifon is Professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management and Senior Associate Dean for Research and Outreach in the College of Human Ecology. 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 forthcoming book, You’ve Always Been There for Me: Understanding the Lives of Grandchildren Raised by Grandparents (Rutgers University Press) 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. 

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 work has been supported by a wide range of sources.  Rachel was awarded a 5-year grant from the William T. Grant Foundation's Scholar's program to study the role of grandparents in the lives of youth.  She is examining whether and how grandparents influence youth; whether living with a grandparent benefits youth living in a single-parent family; and how children fare when they are raised by their grandparents.

Dunifon 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, Chris Near and Kathleen Ziol-Guest (Forthcoming). Backup Parents, Playmates, Friends: Grandparents’ Time with Grandchildren”. Journal of Marriage and Family.


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


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. 

As Senior Associate Dean for Research and Outreach, Rachel provides leadership for the College of Human Ecology's Outreach and Extension activities.

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).

Rachel Dunifon also provides campus leadership to Cornell Cooperative Extension parent educators throughout the state as faculty leader of the Parenting in Context Project

Ph.D. 1999 - Northwestern University, Human Development & Social Policy
M.A. 1998 - Northwestern University, Human Development & Social Policy
B.A. 1994 - Davidson College, Psychology, cum laude

Senior Associate Dean for Research and Outreach, College of Human Ecology