Jenny Trinitapoli's training and background are in two areas: Social demography & the sociology of religion. Bridging these two fields, her work features the demographer’s characteristic concern with data and denominators and an insistence on connecting demographic processes to questions of meaning. Trinitapoli asks many questions about data quality, and has written extensively on the role of religion in the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Religion permeates her research, even when it isn’t present as a variable.
Since 2008, she has been the principal investigator of Tsogolo la Thanzi (TLT)—an ongoing longitudinal study of young adults in Malawi. Demographers use terms like “relationship instability” and “fertility trajectories,” but very plainly: TLT asks how young adults negotiate relationships, sex, and childbearing with a severe AIDS epidemic swirling around them. The TLT research centre, located in Balaka (Southern Malawi), is staffed by over two dozen talented locals and supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.