From the DirectorDouglas S. Massey, Director
The year 2014 saw the Office of Population Research mark its 78th anniversary and its 35th year as an NIH-supported population research center, which was renewed for another five years of funding with a new primary research area in Biosocial Interactions, which addresses the interplay between social and biological processes and focuses on three principal topics: allostatic load, epigenetics, and telomere length. OPR faculty affiliates pursuing work in this area include Jeanne Altmann, Noreen Goldman, Bryan Grenfell, Douglas Massey, Sara McLanahan, and Jessica Metcalf.
After graduating eight doctoral candidates in 2013, the only dissertation completed at OPR during 2014 was that of Naomi Sugie, who successfully defended her thesis “Finding Work: A Smartphone Study of Job Searching, Social Contacts, and Wellbeing after Prison” in July. Using an innovative data collection method– smartphones–she constructed a detailed portrait of the searching and working trajectories of 156 individuals randomly sampled from a complete census of all recent releases to parole in Newark, New Jersey, who were followed for three months. Results showed that parolees are not social isolates or deeply distraught about their job searches, but are highly connected to others and happy to be searching for work. She argues that low employment rates among reentering prisoners are not due to person-specific deficiencies of low social connectivity and poor emotional wellbeing but stems from their very disadvantaged position in the labor market, where they compete for work within a structure of deteriorated opportunities for low-skill, urban, and minority jobseekers more generally. Naomi is now Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law & Society at the University of California, Irvine.
The year 2015 promises a larger harvest of OPR Ph.D.'s, with at least nine dissertations scheduled for defense. In other student news, research conducted by Angelina Grigoryeva, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology with a specialization in Demography, was featured in an article published in The Washington Post. Her study, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association found that women provide care for their aging parents at more than twice the rate of men. Her results showed that in families with children of both sexes, the gender of the child is the single biggest factor in determining who will provide care for the aging parent. Daughters will increase the time they spend with an elderly parent to compensate for sons who reduce theirs, effectively ceding the responsibility to their sisters. Accordingly to Grigoryeva, men also shift the physical and mental stress of providing care, as well as the financial burden by foisting most of their care-giving duties onto women, suggesting that traditional gender roles are the most telling factor in providing care for the elderly.
On the OPR faculty, Janet Currie, the Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs and the Director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing became the Chair of Princeton University's Department of Economics. During 2014 she was also inducted into the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Two other OPR faculty members were inducted into the American Philosophical Society (APS), the nation's oldest learned society which was founded in 1743 to promote useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research and publication. Angus Deaton, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs, and Susan T. Fiske, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and a Professor of Public Affairs, were both inducted into the social sciences class in November.
In 2014, OPR Faculty Associate Patricia Fernandez Kelly drew on intensive fieldwork conducted over the course of a decade in the neighborhoods of West Baltimore to publish a new book entitled, The Hero's Fight: African Americans in West Baltimore and the Shadow of the State. In it she purposefully pairs each personal chapter with an analytical chapter that explores the larger forces at work, showing how growing up poor in the richest nation in the world involves daily interactions with agents of the state, an experience that differs significantly from that of more affluent populations. While ordinary Americans are treated as citizens and consumers, deprived and racially segregated populations are seen as objects of surveillance, containment, and punishment. Sara McLanahan, meanwhile, received the Graduate Mentoring Award of the McGraw Center for Teaching & Learning which honors Princeton faculty members who are exemplary in supporting the development of their graduate students as teachers, scholars, and professionals. In the March 5, 2014 issue of Princeton Alumni Weekly, McLanahan, the William S. Tod Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, was featured in a long article about the Fragile Families Study, which she directs. For a decade and a half, she has sought to understand what it means to be the child of unwed parents by fielding a longitudinal survey of 5,000 children using periodic, in-depth interviews and vast amounts of demographic information to compile a detailed portrait of the nation's “fragile families.”
The foregoing scholarly achievements of students and faculty would not be possible without support from a dedicated staff that provides the administrative, bibliographic, computing, and statistical services that keep the organization running. During 2014, two employees in the Office of Population Research who attained years of service milestones, with Chang Chung completing 15 years as Statistical Programmer and Data Archivist, and Karen Pren completing ten years as Project Manager of the Mexican Migration Project and in service to the Latin American Migration Project. I trust that everyone in the extended OPR family will join me in congratulating our doctoral students, saluting our faculty award winners, and thanking our dedicated staff members for making OPR's contributions to population research possible.
Douglas Massey, Director
Office of Population Research Princeton University