Nathalie Williams (BSc University of Puget Sound; PhD University of Michigan) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Jackson School of International Studies. She is also faculty affiliate of the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology, the South Asia Studies Center, and the Southeast Asia Studies Center.
Williams’ research primarily focuses on migration patterns, during periods of armed conflict, natural disasters and climate change, and social change in general. A key aspect of this work is the fact that even during periods of intense conflict or drastic environmental change, many, if not most, people do not migrate. This is contrary to what is generally assumed and is poorly addressed in the literature. Williams’ work seeks to develop theoretical and empirical understandings of why some people migrate and many do not. In addition to migration, she has also published work examining marriage and fertility patterns during conflict. Incorporating all these demographic patterns during periods of disasters, Williams is now using agent-based models to investigate the macro-level population trends that can result from these micro-level behavioral changes during the recent armed conflict in Nepal and during climatic disasters in Northeast Thailand. Other recent work addresses values and beliefs, how they influence the likelihood of migration and destination choice to different world regions, and how they change through the process of migration. Because migration and conflict are inherently difficult subjects about which to collect data and are difficult to measure, Williams is involved in developing new data collection strategies and conceptualization methods. For example, she is working with a team that has successfully collected panel data from a representative sample of Nepali migrants who are currently living in more than 100 countries worldwide. Another new project seeks to use data from mobile phone call records to track migration and local mobility after violent events and natural disasters. Williams’ work is primarily based in Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Persian Gulf.
Outside of work, Williams enjoys hiking and international travel.