Martin Önnerfors

Postdoctoral researcher at Department of Economics, Uppsala University

I moved from my native Småland to Lund for a Bachelor in Human Geography and GIS, after which I spent a number of years in the private sector as an analyst. I returned to Lund for my Master in Economic Demography at the Economic History Department in Lund and continued into the PhD program, from which I graduated in 2021. My research interest lie within urban demography, historical as well as contemporary, most often with a geographic perspective.

What does your current job entail?

My Postdoctoral position is currently research-dominated. I work within a Riksbanken project called “City of My Dreams”, in which we use historical micro-data to answer questions regarding how economic, health, and social outcomes are shaped by where a person grows up. We use data from Stockholm during the Industrial Revolution and cover topics such as returns to migration, origins of spatial inequality and outcomes from specific policy interventions.

What are the most rewarding things about your current job?

Being able to continue working with social science research after my PhD is very rewarding, since I now get to apply and develop my skills and interests from the PhD program even further. Although working with project funding can be stressful since you constantly need to keep applying to secure your future, the actual work you get to do is privileged since you get to dig deep into very interesting topics. This is different from my experience in private sector, where projects are shorter, more shallow and (naturally) dictated by what pays off.

Did your studies at the department help you in your career? How?

Since I am a postdoctoral researcher, a PhD is of course mandatory. Apart from this, however, I think that the PhD program in Lund gave me a solid background for taking part in bigger research projects. I think that the program gave me a good mix of theory, statistics and data management, all of which were needed for me to get my current position.

Why did you choose to do doctoral studies in Lund?

Having done my Master’s degree in Lund, I had the impression that the PhD program was of high quality and I liked the research being produced there. After applying, I was offered a position in the UK as well as in Lund, but ended up choosing Lund and the program turned out to be what I wanted in my PhD studies.

What were some of the best things with studying at our department?

I appreciated being able to focus and dig deeper into the topics and methods that I found interesting, since the department offered courses in a range of different topics. The seminar culture in Lund also gave me a lot of insights – it was a bit nerve-racking to present during the first years but the comments were always sharp and helped me forward. Also, the department has a lot of pleasant and helpful colleagues and this made my years there all the better.

Do you have any recommendations for future students who would like to follow your path?

Try and follow what interests you and brought you to the social sciences in the first place. My experience is that it’s not always possible to research exactly what you want, but getting close to it does a lot for motivation and sets you on the right path if you want to continue. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to apply for grants, or opportunities to be a part of other people’s projects within your interest.